Review: the beauty and suffering of Frankenstein10th November 2016
This adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel ‘Frankenstein ‘s both emotionally gripping and beautifully put together. Nick Dear’s script is engaging and transports the gothic story to modern day issues of social ostracisation and the nature of love.
The play opens dramatically with Frankenstein’s Creature, a repulsive and terrifying figure, writhing out of an encasing bag. The make-up and costume design for this production were particularly strong with gruesomely life-like wounds and bruising, but the unsettling nature of the Creature came most directly from the actor, Seamus Lavant. He delivered an extremely impressive and engaging performance, completely committing to the character with its painful physicality, contorted facial expressions and a tortured voice. Other characters were largely overshadowed by his masterful command of the stage. However, Imo Allen as a blind benevolent woman was quietly moving and Frankenstein himself, played by Tom Curzon, managed to end his performance as a defeated, mad, solitary scientist powerfully. This impressive acting handles many of the narrative’s sudden twists to shocking and disturbing effect. You cannot help but become emotionally embroiled in this plot.
‘All lives are precious, even mine’
The production has clearly focused on aesthetics as their designers create believable, and in places mesmerising, scenes. Lighting and music bring the relatively bare set to life, and often create an element of the surreal by using modern synthetic sounds. The play opens with a well-executed choreographed group sequence while the dance between the Creature and his imaginary female counterpart was particularly beautiful. The in-the-round set enabled an atmosphere of intimacy and the two actors were able to capture a pure animalistic element of mating, coyly discovering one another and mimicking movements; crawling on the floor and then intensely wrapping their limbs around each other.
At times the performance seemed slightly forced, and the play took its time to get off the ground. The first half an hour felt clunky and fragmented at times; chuckles at humorous lines were a redeeming factor in amongst some clear audience apprehension. However, the second act was superb and opened up to the exploration of many interesting themes in a manner that didn’t feel laboured. The pivotal scene of conflict between the Creature and Frankenstein effectively symbolised the suffering of all people who are socially outcast. Frankenstein maintains that his creation has no rights, and is just a “mass of nothing”, but the Creature defiantly protests that “All lives are precious, even mine”. Topical issues surround the play, such as the ostracisation of disabled people, or even ideas about abortion which are probed here. The nature of love is also explored in a very moving way as yet again the Creature steals our attention and sympathy, yearning for a companion – “All creatures have a mate. All I ask is for the possibility of love.” The play draws you out of your comfort zone and transports you to a different world; those looking for an intense evening of escapism should buy a ticket to be truly captivated.