Frankenstein – Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham

Writer: Eric Gracey from the novel by Mary Shelley

Director: Mark Webster

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

Most would claim to at least have heard of Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, Frankenstein, about the man who thinks he can play God, creating a living, breathing human. In just short of an hour, Blue Orange Arts presents the story from the monster’s viewpoint with a cast of just three.

The narrative starts with the creature being animated and his creator, Victor Frankenstein, being horrified and casting the creature out. At first, the creature struggles to control his limbs and is unable to think coherently. But he is a quick learner and learns to survive by watching the animals. Eventually, he comes across a cottage and discreetly observes its inhabitants – a blind old man and his grownup children. He quickly picks up their language and even teaches himself to read from books he finds in the cottage. He grows fond of the family and approaches the father who, being blind, is not sacred by his appearance. But the children only see a monster and he retreats in disarray. Angry and filled with bitterness towards his creator, he vows he will have revenge on the man who has caused his misery. This cannot end well.

Taresh Solanki plays the initially incoherent creature. His physicality is entirely believable as he lurches from scene to scene. We can completely understand his misery and sense of being absolutely alone in the world. And yet, we can also see his intellect and his essentially sensitive, gentle nature – at the cottage he wants nothing more than to be part of a family. But every way he turns he is confronted with fear and loathing. A creature of almost pure emotion, we cannot help but empathise with his predicament and understand his inchoate rage – a towering performance indeed.

Emma Cooper and James Nicholas share the rôle of narrator, giving voice to the creature’s thoughts when he is unable to; they also play all the other parts. Nicholas, in particular, brings a haunted quality to his performance as Victor, who can only see a fiend and is unable to empathise – for which he pays a terrible price. Cooper plays the female parts and several of the men too. Both slip in and out of the various characters with ease with there never being any doubt where we are and who is speaking.

The pace does slip a bit after the creature finds Victor and pleads for a mate with whom to share his life, but the spark reignites at the dreadful dénouement. One could reasonably expect this minor pace issue to be ironed out through performance.

This was presented as part of Birmingham Fest 2019 and is also to run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year – it’s well worth seeking out for its physicality and storytelling.

Runs Until 20 July 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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