Photo by Dina Tsesarsky
This latest devised piece from Rough-Hewn, the brains behind Fear last term, was, in a word, confusing. Not that that is always a bad thing, it could be said that the director effectively cultured a sense of bafflement that held the audience’s curiosity throughout the show; but there were several uncomfortable moments which left the audience asking: What? How? And most importantly: Why?
The stark stage setting and fluidity of narrative time left the audience with little to hold onto, and there were moments where the plot was not plain. The mother of Victor Frankenstein suddenly fell ill at the wedding – supposedly the monster’s doing – but it was unclear exactly why she was suddenly writhing in pain. Overall, the abundance of confusion left you very aware that you were watching a play.
Nor did I realise that Frankenstein was a comedy, that was until the audience started laughing. This summarises much of the atmosphere surrounding the performance – a general sense of being uncomfortable which often induced laughter at (what I felt to be) inappropriate times. Moments in the second half however reversed this, with some genuinely amusing scenes executed well by Josh Dolphin as an endearing Henry.
Although confusing at times, and somewhat messy, it was the acting of the cast that saved the show. Nick Finerty played a very convincing, oddly intriguing and endearing monster, striking the right balance between inducing the audience’s fear and pity. Praise indeed must go to Lamorna Ash – a wonderfully compelling and poignant Caroline. The slow demise of a women’s sanity as her family falls apart was brilliantly captured with upmost subtlety and sincerity, avoiding some of the brashness that the other cast members fell victim to. Victor Frankenstein was well characterised, but for the first 15 minutes seemed permanently out of breath. The cast would likewise do well not to rely too heavily on the same repeated motifs to express an emotion or idea.
In the second half, the show really came into its own. The effective use of lighting, music, and slick deliverance on the part of the cast allowed the skill of the director to shine through. The overall production was intuitive and stylish, creating some very affecting moments and a fabulous ending. Moments of chaos were particularly well-captured and delivered by a proficient supporting cast. Engaging scenes such as these allowed deeper meanings in the text to come through, and the poignancy of a classic story given a modern twist evoked some interesting reflections.
After a slow first half, the performance overall was well done, displaying some real talent in the cast, but unfortunately was let down by the show itself which was often confusing and at moments, even boring. This was clawed back, however, by a terrific finish and great performances from certain individuals.