DramaLondonLondon Horror FestivalReview

The Resurrectionist – Etcetera Theatre, London

Writer: Robert Pope and Ian Dixon Potter
Director: Courtney Larkin
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

With Halloween fast approaching it’s the perfect time to revisit some classic horror stories. Golden Age Theatre Company have attempted to breathe new life into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by setting its play The Resurrectionist a few months before the book was written and focusing on the events that ‘inspired’ her famous tale of human creation.

tell-us-block_editedThe play, written by Robert Pope and Ian Dixon Potter, shares Shelley’s interest with the battle between science and religion, as well as the components that make up humanity. Lord Byron drags the dead body of his beloved manservant into the laboratory of genius Victor Darvell who specialises in reanimation. Soon Blaize is brought back to life, but the scientific community and the local people are horrified by Darvell’s methods and the creature he has created.

The Resurrectionist is a curious play that never quite decides what its central themes or message will be. During its 90-minute run-time, it flits between debating the role of experiment and discovery in enlightening the world, the superstition and control of the church, the purpose of humanity to inspire love, homosexuality and the role of education in improving character. Yet it’s never quite clear in the somewhat verbose debates what the writers want to tell us about humans playing God.

Similarly confusing is the character of Blaize, Darvell’s half-human creation whose memory of his former servant life is wiped by rebirth, yet he retains full motor skills and powers of language. Tom Everatt plays him as a man-child unable to grasp the rules of chess or recall social conventions, yet able to understand the deep philosophical reasoning behind his reanimation, and, other than dramatic convenience, why this is the case is never fully clarified.

The character of Victor is a much more rounded creation, and in Peter Dewhurst’s standout performance, the audience understands the loneliness and deliberate isolation that leads him to dabble in necromancy, while Dewhurst emphasises the scientific passion and rigour that while emotionally cold, make him a compelling figure. Likewise, Samantha Kamras is a gutsy Mary Shelley who discovers that her free principles are not quite so relaxed in practice.

There is less depth in the surrounding characters with Mark Anfield’s Pastor Cornelius a rather conventional two-dimensional baddie – although it is a role he performs well – and Tristan Rogers’ Lord Byron lacking the tempestuous ardour of the legendary lover. Too often, characters become the mouthpiece for some shoehorned discussions about science and religion that occasionally sound as though they’ve come from a textbook, while the writers attempt to show off their knowledge with clunky insertions about Mary’s famous parents and biography.

Credit to Hanna Wilkinson whose set and costume design is period perfect and does much to create the atmosphere of the early 19th Century, emphasising the clash of social expectation and scientific advancement. And while this play covers a lot of ground it is overlong, while director Courtney Larkin doesn’t elicit much tension from the build-up to Darvell’s presentation and its fall out. Some nice performances keep this afloat but the somewhat dry debates mean you may have to look elsewhere for Halloween scares.

Runs until9 October 2016 | Image: Contributed


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