STAGE REVIEW: Frankenstein @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (30.04.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia, image by Ed Waring

Set across three time periods, Frankenstein confronts us with a post-monster Victor Frankenstein, traumatised and confessing his sins to Captain Walton on a ship trapped in ice at the North Pole; the same Frankenstein in the act of creation and conflict with his monster; and a present-day couple as modern Prometheus creating and debating a new life of their own.

Brought to vivid life by Imitating the Dog, a theatre company renowned for their ground-breaking creative and performance work, a technically complex set boasts spectacular projection mapping, abstract imagery on screens, swinging light fixtures and a gorgeous dance between the leads on stage and the technical team, striking the balance between hitting the beats and required for everything to be in the right place at the right rime and the spontaneity required to make the show sing.

The production sits in a dense, diabolical soundbed, with a score by turns booming and subtle, underpinned throughout by an omnipresent shipping forecast constantly murmuring beneath the action like the whisperings of a seance.

Landing the audience in the different time periods is deftly achieved through a static-laden snap, crackle and pop recalling the long-gone days of turning a dial on a TV to roam through (and attempt to stay with) terrifying late-night broadcasts of Hammer horror films and disturbing, only-seen-once BBC dramas, a crispy analogue touch that lends a neat feeling of antiquity and unease.

A sense of the grotesque, naturally, pervades, not least through the astonishing choreography and contortions of the two leads, balletic moves and precarious balancing acts starkly framed and lit as memorable vignettes, horrifying creatures formed of their two bodies reminiscent of the Dracula’s punished brides from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 filmic take on the tale.

With the choice in the present day to have a child rendered both as body horror and existential crisis given the state of the world, the monster acts as both humanistic counterpoint and conscience, portrayed (as readers of the 1818 novel will be aware) as a subtle, thoughtful and philosophising being, one resoundingly sympathetic and far removed from the lumbering, green-skinned, bolt-necked caricature of Halloween.

Carried by a pair of grippingly physical performances from Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia playing every character (and it’s best going in not knowing who is playing who), the play culminates in an astounding, deeply moving T. S. Eliot monologue that brings the whole thing together, lingering, like the ‘monster’ in the vast frozen wastelands, long after the lights go up.

Frankenstein is at Northern Stage, Newcastle until Thursday 2nd May.

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