An electric performance brings life to this new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s horror story.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a hit right from the start. First told as a ghost story to friends (who happened to include the poets Shelley and Lord Byron) on a holiday in Geneva in 1816 , it was published two years later and was quickly reinterpreted as a play. It’s been filmed and staged countless times since, and the hideous Creature, rejected by his master and tormented by loneliness, is one of the most chilling – and tragic – creations in fiction.
There are two obvious essentials for a successful production – Victor Frankenstein himself, and his Creature. In Blackeyed Theatre’s adaptation, Ben Warwick is a commanding presence as Frankenstein, playing the deity-defying scientist with a gripping, ever-increasing intensity which borders on madness as his life unravels.
He’s ably supported by Lara Cowin as the adoring Elizabeth, whose artless, loving nature sustains her throughout Frankenstein’s long, neglectful absences, and by Max Gallagher as his staunchly loyal friend Henry Clerval.
The set – a tangled mass of timbers and sails – is an ingenious creation by designer Victoria Spearing, and combines the gruesome laboratory with the deck of the frozen ship whose captain rescues Frankenstein from the icy wastes of the North Pole.
The Creature itself is a large, ghostly puppet made by Yvonne Stone, manoeuvred with great skill by members of the cast and voiced by Louis Labovitch.
But while there’s clearly been a huge emotional investment in this Creature, whose sheer size is impressive, its body – made mostly of sinewy white rope – simply doesn’t stack up as the loathsome, rotting patchwork of flesh that Frankenstein tells us he sees.
There are some otherworldly effects – in particular when the company multi-track his voice – yet this Creature is curiously neutral as both villain and victim.
But while the chill factor may not be turned up very high, Eliot Giuralarocca directs with flair and imagination, and the production maintains a brisk energy, powered by the electricity of Ben Warwick’s central performance.
Touring until 25 March 2017