Review: Frankenstein

Tom Bevan 28 October 2015

This new adaptation of Shelley’s classic Frankenstein creates something of a monster in itself. Inconsistently combining dialogue from the nineteenth century with costume and music from the 1990s, it feels incomplete as a full piece.

Indeed, this time mash is the most striking part of the production, particularly in the first act. As the Creature, played by Toby Marlow, is brought to life at the clap of frightening lightning, his grotesque figure learns to stand while Blur plays on the radio. This curious medley provided a distinctive aesthetic (Dr Frankenstein’s brother wearing a Nirvana t-shirt was a personal highlight), the levity of which juxtaposed nicely with the serious subject matter of life and death. Indeed, comedic moments would often come in the most grave and unexpected scenes. In a play so invested in binary oppositions, such as alive/dead, right/wrong, human/other, a deliberate clash between nineteenth century and nineties culture would have been an interesting and welcome thematic motif. Sadly, after fun is had with the idea in the first 30 minutes of the play, it gives way to a more traditional style of theatre, devoid of Oasis tracks. This lack of continuity is disappointing.

Marlow as the Creature gave a compelling performance, carefully exhibiting pain, dejection and betrayal and managing to bring the character to life with distressing retching and contortions. Yet the relationship on stage between him and his creator Victor Frankenstein, played by Ben Walsh, was inconsistent in quality, though the pair are to be commended for not getting distracted at the beginning of the second act when an audience member fainted and was noisily carried out of the auditorium. Walsh portrayed the maniacal genius of the role with a chilling intensity, though the character’s other emotions (such as his love towards his betrothed) seemed rather unconvincing. Mrs Frankenstein-to-be, played by Julia Kass, was excellent in a scene with the Creature which successfully developed an intriguing dialogue rife with tension, though it did not end with the gravitas it deserved. In a similar vein, the end of the first act saw an underwhelming fire effect, most likely due to a technical hitch, which distracted from the severity of the plot.

Despite these issues, a number of scenes were inspired by effective artistic flair, such as a mute sequence where the Creature imagines a bride for himself. Well choreographed dancing and light effects transfixed the audience and invested us in the Creature’s desire for companionship. Similarly, the final scene of the play used lighting to provide a dramatic flourish as characters became silhouettes when exiting for the last time.

Overall, the play had exceedingly strong moments in both acting and direction, but regrettably did not always come alive as a full production.