Stage Review: Frankenstein @ Northern Stage | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel is an edge of your seat, captivating thriller that was accessible to those who know the story and those who do not. Selma Dimitrijevic’s adaptation and Lorne Campbell’s direction tells the story of Dr. Frankenstein’s discoveries in the field of science, discoveries which push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Frankenstein in this adaptation is a woman, Dr. Victoria Frankenstein (Polly Frame), which I was greatly excited about and which I thought lent itself to the original story exceptionally well. The play moves quickly, and the pace is superb, as well as the acting. Polly Frame as Victoria Frankenstein is suitably manic, passionate, obsessive and emotional. Victoria Elliott as Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein gives depth and dimension to what could have otherwise been a flat and boring character. What was most memorable, however, was The Creature (played by Ed Gaughan) and his soliloquies that are used to tell the audience what has happened to him since his abandonment in Ingolstadt. The Creature in this adaptation was sick, vulnerable, emotional; he was not a one-dimensional monster, but instead was a being not long meant for this world, pitiful and living a difficult, pain-inflicted existence. Ultimately saying that no matter what, you can’t cheat death.

The lighting and sets were a memorable highlight, the superb work of Lizzie Powell and Tom Piper. The sets and costumes were versatile and slick, as well as giving a good impression of the period. The lighting also gave the play its’ supreme gothic quality, and was especially evocative upon The Creature’s awakening and Victoria’s nightmare scenes.

However, there were some aspects of the play which were disappointing, I felt The Creature woke up too early, and although the fundamentals of his creation were shown using the rabbit, the electricity shocking the creature into life is the only thing people often remember about Frankenstein. There was also little development on The Creature’s life after his abandonment at Ingolstadt, instead there seemed to be a lot of scenes including Victoria’s family, which I felt were important for character development but maybe could have been cut down a bit.

The decision to make Frankenstein a woman also wasn’t developed enough, the play would have been the same if the main character had been a man, the plot didn’t change much but for a few dialogue adjustments, and the themes of femininity and female suppression at the time wasn’t really mentioned. The book is full of female power but hidden under a veil of societal constraints that existed at the time, and I was excited at the prospect of revealing these. If Frankenstein is a woman, the whole idea of him/her ‘playing God’ is flipped on its head. Yes, she still creates a being artificially, but a man doing this is even more unnatural. Frankenstein becomes not just creator to The Creature, but his mother; she is simply making a baby outside the womb. A man’s inferiority to create life was Frankenstein’s inspiration as a man, that and the death of his mother being the spurs to his obsession to cheating nature as well as life.

All in all, apart from the aspects of the play I was unsure about, I have thought about this play almost every day since I saw it, and that says something. The acting and overall  production was superb, and it was entertaining and accessible to an audience who perhaps hadn’t read the book. It did it’s job well in giving this classic story a renaissance and getting people talking about it again, which I cannot fault in the slightest.

Dr Frankenstein continues until Saturday 11th March at Northern Stage, Newcastle.

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