Armed with nothing but your imagination under the cloak of darkness, you are instantly propelled into this spectacular adaptation of the darkly inquisitive and humorous world that resides in Mary Shelley’s timeless gothic tale, ‘FRANKENSTEIN’* by April De Angelis which is currently being performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre (9 Mar - 14 Apr 18), under Matthew Xia’s brilliant direction.
Two hundred years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s ‘FRANKENSTEIN; OR THE MODERN PROMETHEUS’ was first published anonymously - a creator with no name sharing the birth story of a creature with no name... Shelley was an eighteen year old ferocious reader, a wife and a mother when she began to work on the novel, published two years later, still being celebrated today. Gnawing at the possible consequences of a wild thirst for advancement in science and technology, ‘FRANKENSTEIN’ explores the universal yearning for connection in a chilly, bloody but at times hopeful manner. And it is on the icy voyage of a dauntless Captain Walton about to cross paths with the overzealous scientist, Victor Frankenstein, whose body is plagued by a lethal cocktail of guilt and fever, that this famous horror story begins.
Xia’s production of 'FRANKENSTEIN' is one heck of a gruesome rollercoaster ride. Artfully weaving together total darkness, lifelike props, eerie silences, beguiling performances and the audience’s imagination, this production easily draws you into its nightmarish world which is not completely devoid of humour. The affecting backdrop for this particular unravelling of Victor Frankenstein’s story which seamlessly transports us to various places (a boat, a lab, a rainy street, a courtroom & many more) was designed by Ben Stones as were the beautiful costumes. And the incredible lighting and sound design skilfully fortifing the ambience for each shift in the story was done by lighting designer Johanna Town and composer & sound designer Mark Melville. It was like being in a horror-themed amusement park and I loved it! And I am not even a fan of horror at all.
Shane Zaza’s (Road, Royal Court) Victor Frankenstein and Harry Attwell’s (Twelfth Night, the Royal Exchange Theatre) The Creature effortlessly make you empathise with each character as they both recount their version of events regarding Victor’s misguided attempts at pushing the boundaries of science; both seeking justice for the pain and isolation inflicted on them by the other. Ryan Gage (The Miser, Garrick Theatre) and Colin Ryan (The Secret Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe) bring a charming innocence to the mix as Captain Walton and Victor’s good friend, Henry Clerval. And conveying admirable strength in movingly distinctive ways are Shanaya Rafaat (Uncle Vanya, Theatre Clwyd), Nicola Sloane (To Kill A Mockingbird, the Royal Exchange Theatre) and Esther McAuley (Handbagged, English Theatre Frankfurt) as Victor’s childhood friend Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s mother Caroline Beaufort Frankenstein and the Frankenstein’s housekeeper Justine Moritz.
Over 50 stage adaptations of Shelley’s beloved ‘FRANKENSTEIN’ have been produced since its first in London in 1823 and this one (on until 14 Apr 18) is definitely worth watching if you can.
*I was invited to review this theatre performance at the Royal Exchange Theatre, however, all views are my own :)