Metamorphosis, by Steven Berkoff – Rhinegold Publishing

Metamorphosis, by Steven Berkoff


This scheme offers teachers some practical suggestions for teaching Metamorphosis as part of Edexcel’s Unit 1. The Edexcel syllabus does not dictate a prescriptive list of texts for this unit, instead giving teachers the freedom to choose texts that they are comfortable with teaching and that suit the experiences and needs of their students. I love teaching Metamorphosis because there are so many possible routes of exploration. 

These workshops are devised to cover the ten elements as set out by the syllabus but it is not necessary, and is indeed impractical, to explore them in this order. I have also deliberately not given timings for lessons as they often expand to fill more time than you might think, depending on the quality of the students’ work and the size of your groups. The exam board recommends 30 hours per text in this unit but this is made up of practical work, discussion work, research work and the completion of a set of Exploration Notes.

The ten elements to be explored consist of:

  1. Plot and subplot
  2. Use of language
  3. Form and structure
  4. Visual, aural and spatial elements
  5. Contextualising the play
  6. Subject matter and its treatment
  7. Characterisation
  8. Interpretation of meaning
  9. Applying physical actions to the text
  10. Vocalising the text

I always start with an introductory lesson in which I go through the expectations of this unit of study. I discuss the necessity for students to be working at their highest level and to be keeping a log of their work to assist in writing their Exploration Notes. I examine the mark scheme in detail with them, emphasising the level of detail needed to gain top marks, and show examples of previous students’ written work on this.

Learning objectives:

  • To build an understanding of Berkoff’s Metamorphosis through an examination of Berkoff, Kafka, the theatre of Artaud, and the political and historical context of the play.
  • To be able to divide the play into manageable chunks.
  • To understand plot and subplot.
  • To explore the themes and issues of the play.
  • To explore the beetle metamorphosis. (What does the beetle represent?)
  • To experiment with playing the beetle and with representing the family in their more normal moments.
  • To explore Berkoff’s use of language, and examine how and to what purpose Berkoff uses a range of language techniques.
  • To gain practical experiences to include within students’ Exploration Notes.
  • To examine Berkoff’s detailed stage directions and attempt to physicalise them.
  • To experiment with the actor’s use of voice.
  • To explore the meaning of specific incidents, moments and lines of dialogue.
  • To understand Berkoff’s own views on the staging of Metamorphosis and to explore alternative ideas.

          Number of lessons: n/a

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