Friday, July 27, 2012

Frankenstein on Stage

a new play by Nick Dear
based on the novel by Mary Shelley

The final performance of Frankenstein at the National Theatre in London was on 2 May 2011.  However, I was fortunate to attend a video broadcast of the play on Tuesday last.  Urgent concerns of scientific responsibility, parental neglect, cognitive development and the nature of good and evil are embedded within this thrilling and deeply disturbing classic Gothic tale.  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was adapted for the stage by Nick Dear and realised by Danny Boyle.
Victor Frankenstein, played by Benedict Cumberbatch,  followed nature into her lair, and stripped her of her secrets!
"I brought torrents of light to a darkening world! Is that wrong?"
 In Nick Dear's adaptation the Creature is childlike in his innocence but grotesque in form, he is cast out into a hostile universe by his horror-struck maker. Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, the friendless Creature, increasingly desperate and vengeful, determines to track down his creator and strike a terrifying deal.  In the presentation I saw the amazing Jonny Lee Miller as the creature.  This fascinating production originally was performed with Benedict and Jonny alternating the roles as creature and creator.
Having recently read the original novel I found the adaptation truly captured the essence of the Creature's dilemma.  All he asked was the possibility of love!  And it portrayed the denial of the creature by Frankenstein and his subsequent travails in a way that was also true to the novel.  Combined with some astounding production effects which could have overwhelmed lesser actors this production was exceptionally effective.  When the Creature speaks the following to Victor's bride, Elizabeth, it is a chilling theatrical moment that takes your breath away.
"Slowly I learnt the ways of humans: how to ruin, how to hate, how to debase, how to humiliate. And at the feet of my master I learnt the highest of human skills, the skill no other creature owns: I finally learnt how to lie."

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