February 24, 2011

The National Theatre's Frankenstein: The Reviews Are In

First up, here’s a trailer for the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle.

After 17 days in previews, the play was finally staged for the Press on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, two evenings being necessary to accommodate the alternate performances, with stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller swapping roles as Frankenstein and Creature.

The word is very good indeed. Critics unanimously praise Danny Boyle’s powerful and innovative stagings, conjuring up birds, rain and lightning, and his drawing out moving and mesmerizing performances from his actors.

The Guardian’s Michael Billington positions the play as “a humane, intelligent retelling of the original story in which much of the focus is on the plight of the obsessive scientist's sad creation, who becomes his alter ego and his nemesis.” He pronounces Danny Boyle’s staging as “brilliant” and “a bravura triumph in which Mark Tildesley's design provides a whole series of visual coups.”

Of the performances, Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on the Creature is “unforgettable”, with “an epic grandeur” about it. “He has humor as well as pathos.” Of Jonny Lee Miller’s version of the character, his strength “lies in his menace. Stockier than Cumberbatch, his Creature makes you believe in the character's Satanic impulse and in his capacity for murder.

In The Telegraph, Charles Spenser reports that director Boyle “pulls off something truly spectacular herethere is no doubt that Frankenstein is the most viscerally exciting and visually stunning show in town.” Libby Purves of The Times calls it “a hell of a production: the set itself conveys unease, rising and revolving into harsh surprises.

Nick Dear’s adaptation, overall satisfying, comes under mild reproach for some slow patches and, according to Patrick Marmion of The Daily Mail, dialogue that is often “drably pedestrian”, but he concludes that “this is a memorable production and will doubtless be spoken of for years to come."

Additional performances have been scheduled beyond the original planned run, but they’ll likely sell out before I finish this sentence. Nevertheless, everyone gets a chance to see this Frankenstein when it comes to cinemas worldwide on March 17, with some venues offering an alternate performance on March 24, and repeat showings. Check the National Theatre Live page for broadcast details and a list of venues.

The Daily Mail carries several excellent photographs from the production.

The National Theatre's Frankenstein


wich2 said...

Pretty dang cool.

(And gratifying when other creative folks see a great piece like you do - in our Quicksilver production, we very much saw Victor and The Monster as joined at the hip...)


Anonymous said...

I spent yesterday evening watching a live simulcast of the National Theatre's production of Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle, it has a fantastic set and the cast worked very hard but it was fundamentally flawed with a terrible script, a miscast father of Victor, lousy direction and some very over the top stage acting that lacked any subtlety. one of the most boring 2 hours I've ever spent, I'm amazed its sold out every night

Pierre Fournier said...

Anon: Respectfully, I think I disagree with every point you made! I was never bored, not one instant. I was drawn in with the first scene and carried through, fully engaged, to the end. I was challenged, moved and often delighted. My greatest surprise was the script, often singled out as flawed, which I found intelligent and amazingly true to Mary’s novel. The acting, I felt, abounded in subtleties from both principals, and Boyle’s direction was sure-handed and inventive. As for Victor’s father, I thought George Harris was perfectly authoritative in the few scenes he has. How was he miscast? Because he’s black?

And by the way, you’re very welcome to share your thoughts here, but may I ask why you’re hiding? Why is “Anonymous” always the sourpuss in the room? I always thought that one should stand up and sign off on his opinions, especially the negative or contrarian ones. Your opinions are valuable, but anonymity drops criticism to the level of bellyaching.