FEATURE: Timeworks Theatre’s Five Favourite Frankenstein’s Monsters | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ahead of bringing theatre show Frankenstein: A Gothic Creation to various North East venues throughout October, we caught up with Timeworks Theatre to find out their five favourite Frankenstein’s monsters. You can also catch them at the following…

  • Thursday 18th October, The Castle Keep, Newcastle, 7.30pm
  • Friday 19th October, The Castle Keep, Newcastle, 7.30pm
  • Wednesday 24th October, The Exchange, North Shields, 7.30pm
  • Friday 26th October, Langley Castle, Northumberland, 7.30pm
  • Sunday 28th October, Crook Hall, Durham, 7.30pm
  • Monday 29th October, Crook Hall, Durham, 7.30pm
  • Wednesday 31st October, Arts Centre Washington, 7.30pm

Boris Karloff
The obvious one, but only obvious because it’s so iconic.  This ‘monster’, from Universal’s 1931 film of Frankenstein, gave us the image that even now most people picture when they think of Mary Shelley’s story. In fact, the depiction of the Creature in the film isn’t very true to Shelley’s text, especially in the way he communicates, with Karloff speaking only in grunts and moans.  This won’t be the case in our production – our Creature is extremely eloquent, as Shelley originally envisaged.  But the vision created for the film – with its flat-topped head, massive boots and bolt through the neck – was and still is so undeniably arresting that it will forever be the one most people associate with the character.

Christopher Lee
When Hammer Films came to make their version of Frankenstein they had to come up with their own visual representation of the Creature – even now, Universal aggressively protect the Karloff image so it can’t be copied. The result was Lee’s portrayal of the Creature, first seen in The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957. His version was physically less imposing and leaner, making use of Lee’s natural tall but slender frame, but it made an impressive impact on audiences, and is often cited as the first true colour ‘gore’ film. It was a massive success worldwide, and went on to spawn several sequels.  

Benedict Cumberbatch / Jonny Lee Miller
A bit of a cheat, this one, as it’s actually two different actors who took turns at playing the Creature, this time in a theatre production, 2011’s adaptation by Nick Dear for the National Theatre, directed by Danny Boyle. The production became an international sensation, experienced by over half a million people in cinemas around the world via live streaming. Like our production, it stayed closer to Mary Shelley’s original text in its portrayal of the Creature, and made more of his journey from childlike innocence to vengeful monster, but it was nevertheless inventive in its visual representation of him, with bald caps and prosthetic scars used to horrific effect.

Robert De Niro
When chief actor of the luvvie school Kenneth Branagh set about making his film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with himself in the part of Dr Victor Frankenstein, who better to play his Creature than the then chief actor of another school of acting, top method actor Robert De Niro. True to form, De Niro studied stroke patients to get a handle on how his Creature should speak. The resulting film, released in 1994, didn’t wow critics or set the box office alight, but we think De Niro’s performance was striking, both vocally, especially in capturing the tragic nature of the character, and visually, covered as he was with vivid stitches all over his body. 

Peter Boyle
No list of the greatest Frankenstein’s monsters is complete without mention of Peter Boyle, who portrayed the character in Young Frankenstein in 1974. Boyle’s portrayal was so much more than a simple pastiche of Boris Karloff’s, though he did successfully capture its pathos – he was also fully embraced the joyful anarchy of Mel Brooks’ script. It’s impossible to forget his rendition of Puttin’ on the Ritz in top hat and tails with Gene Wilder, one of the all-time great comedy moments in cinema. As our production is a serious adaptation of the novel, sadly you won’t see anything like that routine in it, but we have to admit we were sorely tempted…

Timeworks Theatre bring Frankenstein: A Gothic Creation to various North East venues throughout October.

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