February 12, 2011

The National Theatre's Frankenstein

It is the hottest theater ticket in London. In March, it goes global with a live broadcast to cinemas. The Royal National Theatre is staging an ambitious new Frankenstein with a high profile cast and crew including playwright Nick Dear, director Danny Boyle, music by Underworld and actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, seen in Creature makeup in the above photo.

Nick Dear and Danny Boyle first discussed the project in the early nineties, only to shelve it when the Kenneth Branagh/Robert DeNiro film was released. In the intervening years, Dear’s career as a playwright and screenwriter continued to flourish, while Danny Boyle stepped away from the stage and onto film sets, directing such titles as Trainspotting (1996) and 28 Days Later (2006), culminating with a Best Director Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Now he’s up for another Oscar as Best Director, as well as one for Best Film, for the harrowing real-life survival drama 127 Hours (2010).

Actor Jonny Lee Miller was in Boyle’s Trainspotting and, in an indirect Frankenstein connection, he played Lord Byron in a TV movie written by Nick Dear. Miller began his career as a child actor with a bit part in a 1982 episode of Doctor Who. Speaking of which, Benedict Cumberbatch, an avowed fan of the classic series, briefly considered taking over the Doctor’s part after David Tennant’s tenure. Instead, he took on the lead of BBC’s updated Sherlock (2010) to considerable critical and popular acclaim. Among his television roles, Cumberbatch played a young Stephen Hawking and Vincent Van Gogh.

Brought together for Frankenstein, Miller and Cumberbatch take turns, daily, at playing Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, a conceit that addresses the symbiotic relationship between the creator and his creation.

After barely one week in Preview mode, Frankenstein is already sold out for it’s entire original run, straight through April 17. Additional performances are being scheduled. Though the show won’t be subjected to press scrutiny until February 22nd, blogs and social networks are already abuzz with early if fannish reviews. No spoilers repeated here except to say that most of the talk is about a nude Monster and how the play needs to be tightened up — which is the whole point of the current shakedown period — though every performance to date has been crowned with a standing ovation.

Most everyone reading this will have a shot at seeing the play thanks to the National Theatre Live broadcasts to cinemas worldwide. Two performances are being beamed out in March. The March 17 show has Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor, with the roles reversed for the March 24 broadcast. Several venues are also scheduling repeat showings of the recorded performances.

Click The National Theatre Live to find a venue near you.

The National Theater’s Frankenstein page.

Frankenstein at the National Theatre, The Guardian.

Q&A: Playwright Nick Dear on Adapting Frankenstein, The Arts Desk.

An interview with Nick Dear, The Financial Times.


David Lee Ingersoll said...

This is one of the featured "films" at this year's Seattle International Film Festival this year!

Byron Winton said...

Looking forward to seeing this play on the screen.

Anonymous said...

"Trainspotting", not "Trendspotting"..

Pierre Fournier said...

Thank you, Anon, for spotting the typo. I had to laugh out loud: "Trendspotting" is the title of a TV series I developed many years ago for Discovery Channel Canada. I guess I was having a flashback.

Max the drunken severed head said...

I will be attending a broadcast of the play next month, beamed to a local vintage movie house (The Oaks) here in the Pittsburgh area. Highly anticipated by local classic horror fans like me!

Anonymous said...

It's Stephen Hawking, not Hawkins.

Pierre Fournier said...

Corrected. Thanks, ol' eagle eyes!