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10.05.2011- Frankenstein

Frankenstein, The National Theatre (Olivier), 28.04.2011, 7.30pm.

The word 'smash-hit' isn't often used to describe theatre productions, but I think it's safe to say that Frankenstein, which ended its run at The National Theatre last week has been exactly that. I was lucky enough to snap up some Entry Pass tickets for the sell-out production when more dates were added to the run at the end of March, and have been looking forward to seeing the play ever since. Directed by Danny Boyle, Frankenstein starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternated the roles of The Creature and Victor Frankenstein in each performance. On our night, Cumberbatch was playing the Creature and Miller occupied the role of Frankenstein, and both were excellent, maintaining the energy of the performance and fully bringing to life the power struggle which is at the heart of the relationship between the two central characters. The beginning of the play, which saw the 'birth' of the creature was mesmerising; Cumberbatch was excellent in communicating the fragility of The Creature at this point and his physical expression in particular was amazing as the Creature tried to stand and fully immerse himself in the world into which he had been propelled. Nick Dear's adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel also deserves praise for condensing the plot and, perhaps most importantly, allowing the audience to engage and empathise with the Creature before depicting the consequences of and exploring the social ramifications of Frankenstein's scientific experimentation.

As well as drawing two fantastic performances from the two leading actors, Danny Boyle's direction also saw the incorporation of some breathtaking technical elements into the production. Most striking of all was the gargantuan lightning bolt which extended into the auditorium and was made up of thousands of individual light bulbs, suggesting the power of technology (it is the advent of electricity which allows Frankenstein to bring his creation to life) and more metaphorically evoking the idea of the light and darkness which exists within the psyche of each character. Bruno Poet's lighting was used to great effect throughout the production to evoke changes in season and location, as we were transported from the luscious countryside in spring to the bitter cold of the North Pole as the piece concluded. In tandem with Mark Tildesley's design and the cacophonic soundscapes created by Underworld and Ed Clarke for the production, the lighting played a key part in ensuring that Boyle's directorial vision was fully realised and that an authentic world which the audience could be fully immersed in was created on stage.

Overall, if I were to describe Frankenstein in one word, it would probably be mesmerizing. The technical and design elements, despite being innovative in their own right, did not overshadow the story or central performances, which was key in ensuring that the audience remained involved throughout. As well as allowing these aspects of the performance to co-exist harmoniously, I think the true genius of this piece lay in the way it made us consider the contemporary resonances of the themes it explored. The idea of man 'playing God' and using science to create the perfect embodiment of humanity is something which is rarely out of the headlines in one guise or another, and by depicting the consequences of  Frankenstein's scientific experimentation, the production enlivens us to the debates surrounding similar present day innovations. Most importantly, however, through the characterisation of the Creature, we see in microcosm the development of man, the fragility of life and the unifying desire to experience love, no matter the cost.

Did you get to see Frankenstein? If so, what did you think?

(Image credit: Google Images.)


  1. I so want to see this. It looks amazing.
    Thanks so much for your comment a while back.
    You're writing it wonderful.
    I'm studying fashion journalism and I look at your writing as an inspiration for my own.

  2. This is incredibly written Sarah! Such a lovely post, I wish I would have seen it! I love Mr Cumberbatch and I can't wait to see him back on telly in Sherlock again soon x

  3. May I just say that you are a brilliant writer Sarah, this is an excellent review. Unfortunately I didn't see the play, I don't really get to the Theatre much living in such a small city, but I really would like to xxx

  4. Saw it, loved it, visually brilliant but thought maybe it missed some of the character three dimensional-ness of the book.


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