Frantic Assembly has become known for its energetic and uncompromising physical theatre productions. Its latest show is set to be Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which will tour the UK from September this year. The show is based on Kafka’s most known work, which tells the story of salesman Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a huge insect and later struggles to adjust to his new life.
This adaptation is a collaboration with poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, and Frantic Assembly has released an animated poster as part of the launch. The poster has been created by photographer Perou, designer Paul Reardon from Peter & Paul, and musician Stefan Janik, and has inspired the creation of the show itself.
“As we set out to create an image for Metamorphosis I found that not only were my ideas boring me, but I was actually bored with the idea of a show poster,” says Scott Graham, artistic director of Frantic Assembly. “I felt that a Frantic poster could be reduced to a formula of slightly off kilter image suggesting some kind of dynamic shift or impulse. And I was seeing it everywhere.”
Having worked with Perou in the past, Graham came to the photographer with the idea of doing something more than just taking a photograph. “Perou responded by showing me some animation created from his images. It was disturbing, mesmerising and beautiful. And it was unlike anything I had seen before,” explains Graham. “Perou talked about the role of AI and hopefully graphic designer Paul Reardon in creating something that would surprise and challenge us. We talked about an image that would pulsate and mutate…. We were not going to create a poster. We were going to create some art.”
Enlisting the help of his team Graham had Perou photograph friends and colleagues in “grotesque shapes” and unusual positions to mimic George Samsa’s changing form. These images were then sent to Reardon to render in AI and make “something magical happen”.
Working through a slew of images, a selection was then sent back to Reardon to composite together, which eventually became the animated poster. “The images were created through a combination photographing dancers in a variety of poses and compositing them together with the contorted bug images that were generated using an AI training model through Midjourney,” explains Reardon. “The images were then composed as a sequence of interpolated frames brought into Runway AI to create the animation.”
“The animation Paul has created fulfils the original ambition and more. It is unlike anything I have ever seen and I am immensely proud to be a small part of its creation,” adds Graham. “It is more than a marketing tool to reflect the production. It is a work of art that inspires the production to surprise and mesmerise, to be brave and break new ground.”