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Metamorphosis at the Lyric Theatre, London | Review

There are, Maria Caruso was keen to emphasise in a post-show discussion, no wrong answers when it comes to responding to Metamorphosis or even figuring out what it was about. Well, there are, but only if one is being facetious: if I were to say it was about a multitude of bees who descended on a superhero dressed in a cape and stung her, until all that remained was a dead superhero and a sea of dead bees, that would be incorrect. But perhaps the Pollyanna in Caruso may yet reply that there are elements of tragedy in this performance, and the sheer pain suffered at various points by her character could, in all seriousness, be likened to being repeatedly stung.

METAMORPHOSIS - Photo by Jeronimo Gomes.
METAMORPHOSIS – Photo by Jeronimo Gomes.

Reading the programme for the show made me think of Pseud’s Corner in the satirical magazine Private Eye, in which seemingly intellectual but effectively rather pretentious writing is quoted. The show is, for instance, a result of hunger “to create an expansive work for the world’s stage”. The question and answer session that followed the dance performance proper was most useful, and at the same time felt like reading the blurb beside an abstract painting in an art gallery, to know what the artist’s intentions were.

It is not the most tantalising of starts, though it is refreshing to see a story told in forward chronological order, as opposed to following the trend of contemporary shows that like to flit between years or even decades. The story is a work of fiction (or, as the programme puts it, “based on Caruso’s own experiences but broadened to be more universal”). Logically, the sole on-stage character learns to crawl before she learns to walk, and in turn learns to walk before she learns to dance. I rather liked the portrayal of adolescent years – it was, in some respects, unpleasant viewing, but it was also accurate. Frenetic scratching was indicative of growing pains, and a palpable general sense of frustration soon boiled into fiery anger.

The stage space was utilised well, including the short catwalk put in for the Lyric Theatre’s current resident show Get Up Stand Up (that show does not have performances on a Monday night, allowing Metamorphosis to slot in when the theatre would otherwise have been dark), with a number of dresses on hangers – each is eventually worn. It’s a very portable show, with nothing other than the costumes in terms of set: such is the flexibility of the production that it has even been performed in a school gymnasium in São Paulo.

Sudden, unexpected, jerky movements portray the unpredictability of the curveballs life throws at people. It’s not the smoothest of rides, and not the happiest of ones either, with nothing in the way of comic relief to provide balance to the intense and deep emotions. It feels incomplete, with a conclusion that results in the fabric of a large sheet shaped into something resembling a newborn baby. It is difficult not to feel happy for Caruso, whilst at the same time, there’s a nagging feeling that this isn’t ‘the end’, with parenting bringing its own myriad challenges. But, as ever, it is better to leave the audience wanting more than to outstay one’s welcome. A fierce and invigorating experience.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Hailed as one of Maria Caruso’s greatest solo creations to date, Metamorphosis, has been performed across the globe since its critically acclaimed five-month run off-Broadway in 2021.

A dance theatre work, heavily influenced by the artist’s ballet and modern vocabularies, the audience is immersed in the emotion of the creator’s true story and selfless expression on the stage. Caruso’s powerful solo show is considered one the most unique works of theatre without the utterance of a single word. Her entire body transfixes the audience through her raw and personal metamorphosis, leaving you changed forever through the universality of emotions on stage.

The evening-length performance took root after Caruso’s extensive work with the Martha Graham Contemporary Dance Company and the artistic evolution resulting from her performances of Martha Graham’s iconic solo Lamentation. Hungry to create an expansive work for the world’s stage, Metamorphosis was born.

The work is a spiritual and powerful journey through life’s many transitions, and it is based on Caruso’s own experiences but broadened to be more universal. Throughout the performance, the audience is absorbed in Caruso’s drastic emotional shifts as she uses a series of costume changes into differently-colored dresses as a metaphor for turning points in her character’s journey.


Lyric Theatre
Shaftesbury Avenue,
London, W1D 7ES

Monday 27 June, 2022 at 8pm & Monday 4 July at 8pm
Duration: 65 minutes
followed by an interval and Q&A
Age recommendation: suitable for all

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