Script: Nick Dear
Director: Shane Gough
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
A barn house like structure, covered in patches of skin type material. A shadowy figure writhing behind. A heartbeat sound effect.
Oh dear, there’s going to be an awkward birth scene isn’t there?
So starts Frankenstein, not with the horror movie flash of lightning and a giggling scientist, thankfully, but with a burst of The Creature from a symbolic womb. And the drama school clichés keep on coming. Beatings, where the fight choreography expects the audience to believe in kicks, pulled a foot away from the body. Lots of pointing at nothing and describing the action rather than showing. Not one, but two unnecessary rapes. A dream sequence dance, and so much bad acting that at times it feels like watching a school show where everyone had to be given a part otherwise their Mum would complain.
Thank the stars for Neil Knipe as The Creature then. His portrayal of a newborn discovering first its own body, and then the world around it, is incredibly charming, and the evolution from wondrous child to cold-hearted monster is slick and believable. His creator Victor (Finn Ella) is equally excellent, switching between moral angst and scientific pride in a blink on an eye, which is beautiful to watch. Their scenes together in Act Two are where the show finally starts to come alive, and it is a shame that the first act plods, with only the relief of Keith Royston as blind old DeLacey to give some much-needed interest. Even these interactions, however, are not allowed to flow and engage the audience as they could, as the set is plunged into blackout seemingly every three minutes for props to be brought on and banged around before the action can continue.
It is clear that there is potential for a wonderful show here – the original staging by Danny Boyle, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, was highly praised and award winning. And Knipe has clearly studied Cumberbatch to get the feel for his own Creature, as he channels the latter’s famously precise speech patterns and movements perfectly.
The set is appealing, the lighting is gorgeous, and the script, while occasionally hitting the audience in the face with a Theology textbook, is a tight adaptation of Mary Shelley’s book from the point of view of the Monster, cutting out a lot of dross while retaining the feel and message of the original. It is just a shame that this is badly executed, clunky, and overall not a show that can be recommended in its current state. Perhaps it too, like its lead character, needs a year or two to grow.
Touring regionally | Image: Contributed