April 21, 2009

Frantic Frankenstein

Produced in February 2008, this adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a collaboration, under director Laurie Sampson, of Northampton UK’s Royal and Derngate Productions, and the celebrated physical theater company Frantic Assembly.

In this version, written by Lisa Evans, a new layer is added to the book’s nested narratives, a contemporary framing story of a woman, Mary, held in an insane asylum for the murder of her own child. She is fascinated by Mary Shelley’s book, perhaps trying to understand the monster within herself. Reviewing the play, Robin Simpson of Cultural Dessert writes, “it is a magical moment when she first opens up the book and the characters explode through a trap door onto the stage to play out the drama in front of her. The links between Mary's story and the book are subtly strengthened as she takes on some of the roles in Frankenstein's narrative.

Tellingly, one of these roles is that of Justine, the servant unjustly accused and executed in the death of the boy, William, killed by Frankenstein’s Monster. Another interesting connection comes when the body of The Monster’s mate is thrown into the sea, transforming into Mary, the asylum patient, harming herself in the shower. Actress Georgina Lamb’s performance was, according to Sid Langley of The Birmingham Post, movingly realised.” Caroline Morris of The Stage pronounced it “haunting in the extreme.”

Though critics were generally impressed by the production, energetic to the point of sensory overload, the overall effect of the play was, according to Sam Marlowe of Times Online,disappointingly tame. If this is not an electrifying evening, though, it is by and large an elegant and diverting one. But it never once freezes the blood.” Lyn Gardner of The Guardian said, “This one has lashings of atmosphere and a few moments to make you jump, but it still falls far short of the imaginative heart of a tale that should be as apt for our own era as it was for the Age of Enlightenment.”

All the reviewers were in agreement over the outstanding performance of dancer Richard Winsor as The Monster, moving Sid Langley to rhapsodize that “There won't be a more effective entrance on any stage in the world this year than the monster's arrival at the Royal. People literally jumped out of their seats at that moment.” Robert Simpson noted, “an amazing physical performance… (Winsor) is compelling throughout, commanding the stage and acrobatically cantering up and down the set.” The Times’ Marlow said, “(Winsor) gives a persuasive account of the creature’s physical and mental torment, flinging his body about as if he longs to be rid of it.”

Winsor’s previous credits include a world tour playing the frankensteinian Edward Scissorhands on stage.

Photograph at top by Richard Haughton.

Reviews quoted: Cultural Desserts, The Stage, The Birmingham Post, Times Online, The Guardian.

BBC audio coverage.

Royal and Derngate Productions.

Frantic Assembly’s Frankenstein page.

Video designs for the play by Mesmer.


Max the drunken severed head said...

You always post the most interesting Frankenstein-related stories of any spot on the web. Thanks, Pierre.

Anonymous said...

I wish they would elaborate on the other characters in the book, in these movies. All in all I can't tell which I prefer, movie Frankenstein, or book Frankenstein.