Frankenstein goes global tonight, March 17, as the National Theatre’s production, directed by Danny Boyle, is broadcast live to cinemas around the world. It is a phenomenal event, by any measure, in the unending history of Mary Shelley’s creation.
Frankenstein first broke the bounds of Mary’s 1818 novel in 1823 as a London play. Its immediate success spawned copycat versions literally within days. Over the next decades, countless versions appeared and actors T.P.Cooke and O.Smith made careers out of playing The Monster in blue-green skin and toga. Eighty years ago, James Whale’s Frankenstein — itself inspired by a British stage play — recast The Monster as a twentieth-century icon with Boris Karloff in boxhead and bolts makeup.
Tonight, another London stage adaptation of Frankenstein projects itself as a new Frankenstein reference. The reviews have been terrific and the participation of a famous director and two red-hot stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, have made the National’s live broadcast a must-see ticket worldwide, as witnessed by the buzz on social media. Next week, many cinemas will be showing an alternate version, with Cumberbatch and Miller switching roles as Victor and The Creature. Many venues will repeat the show in weeks to come.
No doubt both versions will be committed, soon, to DVD. Not coincidentally, the CD soundtrack by Underworld went into pre-order mode earlier today, along with t-shirts, one of them reading “Heartbeat Boom Boom”, evoking the play’s opening sequence.
Frankenstein never rests. In the next couple of days, I’ll be reporting on Frankenstein’s Wedding, a live television event this weekend out of Leeds. And a new batch of Frankenstein films loom on the horizon, not the least of which is a version planned by Guillermo del Toro.
Frankenstein marches on.