Lucy has written her review for the National Theatre’s Frankenstein!
"This week I watched The National Theatre bring the famous ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelly to the stage! This thrilling take on the play was directed by the Oscar-winning Danny Boyle. Known for his brilliant films such as Trainspotting & T2 Trainspotting, Slumdog millionaire and 127 hours just to name a few. Featuring in the 2011 show he stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein and Jonny Lee Miller as the monster and visa-versa. This gripping production has you hooked from very the start and takes you on a emotional journey throughout.
I truly believe that the National Theatre’s aim is to make old stories come back to life in a modern world. By using the art form of theatre, it is our very own time machine to venture off into whatever world we choose. Taking the interest of younger generations and putting on such a fascinating play that i would definitely recommend.
In the opening scene we see a burnt wasteland with a sombre spotlight shining on a circular shaped pod with a skin-like seal stretched over it, which Miller was inside. This design was inspired by Leonardo De Vinci’s Vitruvian man. It’s certainly an eerie feeling, but this theme is a continuous one throughout the play.
The stage is a large circle with a rotating inner circle in the centre, which screws out on an angle to change the scenes. This design reminded me of Archimedes’ screw the way the platform rotates to reveal an underground set. This wheel shaped stage could symbolize the changes of time and how it will inevitably turn on its own terms and you cannot interfere with its course. From above we see a collection of magical lights, that look like a bed of stars in the night. The lights hum and buzz loudly and with three gradual sparks of light we see the birth of the creature! As he falls flat for a few moments he begins to cry out just like a new born, accept the cries of a man echo through the theatre. Ripping through his man made womb, the creature is revealed and lays on the ground just for a moment. Just long enough for me to think to myself how does a man portray a monster? A creature that we know not to exist?
Well, for the first 5 minutes you get to see exactly how its done!
I was completely captivated from the start and watching this creature burst into life learning to walk and stand on two legs, was like watching a baby giraffe learning how to stand for the first time. However unlike a baby giraffe who is guarded by its mother during its first moments of life, the creature was alone, frustrated and confused. .
The high voltage sparks continue to shock the creature ( as well as an audience member) as he worms around. ‘A fish out of water’ springs to mind! Miller’s movement and physicality is unnatural yet, intriguing. Following this, once the creator meets with his creation out of fear he runs from his ‘genius’. After a tiring effort, the creature lays back down and we see Cumberbatch’s first appearance. Apprehensive, he walks over slowly to assess the situation but within Victors first contact with the creature he springs back to life giving the Doctor quite a fright! And right away in their first few moments of meeting there’s a sense of fear between them this theme is one that seems to reoccur through out.
Millers interpenetration of the creature is an uncomfortable one at first, but i came to realise the uncomfortable feeling of this performance is what this whole story is all about. We all, even as an audience judge his thick grotesque scars and inhumanly ways straight away due to what we see. But watching the creature develop and grow, i felt a connection and began to understand this character more as the play went on. It even made me question if his actions justified by his experiences? Miller’s commitment to the role was undying and I really believed that this is what a creature would truly be like. Miller even shaved his head for this role, to enable ease with prosthetic’s and make up, unlike Cumberbatch who said being in make up for that long was ‘painful sometimes’.
Since birth the creature is beaten and rejected with every person he encounters. The only thing he has learnt in his few days of solitude is the evil and cruel ways of humans. Purely based on his physical appearance he is treat like vermin and cast away into the night. This being an on going trend for him as well as becoming the main trigger for some of the wicked acts he commits. I feel like even though this creature was built by hand, the nature over nurture argument makes me wonder. Was it fate that he would turn rogue or was it possible for him to learn kindness?
His experiences with ‘De Lacy’ played by Karl Johnson, show’s this much softer child-like side to the creature. As well as learning to read and write the creature quickly picks up humour and sarcasm in conversation. An example of the creatures quick learned wit is when the pair are walking around as it begin to go dark, De Lacy tells him they must head back soon, to which the creature replies with ‘How can you tell? You have no eyes!’ Here is the beginning of where i began to understand how well the creature can adapt and learn. It also shows a very likable innocent nature, in contrast to his grunts and strange movements. Showing that he is capable of intellect as well as emotional intelligence, he makes a comparison between himself and the moon using the words ‘solitary and sad, like me’ and goes onto say ‘With all that i learn i discover how much i do not know’ he starts to go off on a tangent wondering who he is, where he came from or if he has a family. The way he articulates himself is like a poet, similar to what he reads and learns with De Lacy. You can quickly feel a sense of distress through his not knowing, and i myself began to feel sad for him as his yearning for knowledge and acceptance stems from the very person who aught to have shown him these qualities first hand.
However these behaviors are soon forgotten and is blinded by rage. But every attempt he makes to be gentle or kind he is met with the same fate, which only enhances his bad experiences and overrides his potential kind nature.
Victor Frankenstein himself i found was a peculiar character. One moment being amazed by his work and the next wanting to murder his brilliance. This is a common theme with Victor, an example would be when he finds the creature attacking Elizabeth he has an opportunity to shoot him whilst Elizabeth is still alive, but he cant shoot him and he murders Elizabeth right before his very eyes. The pair have plenty of other opportunities to kill the other one, but they simply cant. In my opinion, this shows a father and child like relationship the two share. No matter how badly Victor degrades him or makes him feel inadequate, the creature is still at his side by the end like a loyal dog. The creature cannot bring himself to destroy the man who brought him to life, its a very odd dynamic but very natural at the same time when you think about it. But towards the end Victor is crawling by the side of the creature just like the creature was foreshadowing in the beginning. I believe that it is these inconsistencies and cold acts of Victor that influences the creatures actions to commit such wicked acts. The only nature he has been shown is viciousness and betrayal.
The other characters did an amazing job, such as Naomie Harris as Victors wife and the steampunk railway workers. The train scene was again was so impressive with sparks flying from the train and the workers choreography perfectly in time with each other. The music reminded me of maritime sea shanties and how a crew on a ship all work in harmony to sail the seas, a bit like these workers all banding together on the job. One similarity that struck me was the way the creature was a man made machine. Like a train it will not operate without the assistance of a man, however the creature isn’t a well oiled machine, like the train. The train is maintained with the correct fuel to run efficiently, unlike the creature who hasn’t had the proper love and guidance every person needs to function in society. One could say this is why he goes off the rails!
It’s safe to say that The National Theatre never fail to impress and exceed expectation with their outstanding performances and exceptional casting. The Gothic tale of Frankenstein was brought to life for the public to enjoy and told a compelling story as well keeping us entertained to the end."