22nd May 2019
When you think of Frankenstein, I would bet that you think of a rather crude, squarish monster...A caricature propagated by Hollywood, stomping stiff legged, arms outstretched, groaning inarticulately. Perhaps more than any other monster, Frankenstein's has been taken over and diminished, and dehumanised by the movie industry. Nick Dear's play seeks to explore and reassert the humanity of Frankenstein's creature.
The play begins with a blinding flash - the spark of life - and as the stage lights rise, we see the creature standing, arms outstretched like Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, apparently geometrically balanced, perfectly proportioned. But the image of perfection is short lived, as the creature collapses and drags himself towards his creator in an ungainly, uncoordinated
crawl. Horrified by the hideousness of his creation Frankenstein runs, abandoning the creature, believing it would not survive. And so the first experience of humanity for the creature is that of rejection. Rejection and cruelty will be the formative experiences for the creature - though he revels in the beauty of the world around him, and finds friendship with the blind man, he is unable to forget men's cruelty and his reaction to rejection is always rage, which he cannot control. The creature learns, he is intelligent and logical, but emotionally limited. He lacks understanding of why men are cruel and vengeful. He sees that beauty is valued, and can appreciate it himself, but is also acutely aware of his own lack of beauty and worth. He feels the isolation of being unlike others, and longs for companionship. Unable to find it he strikes out against everyone, his own actions mirroring the reactions of men towards him, and leads eventually to tragedy.
The People's Theatre have produced an astonishing play. Colin Jeffrey's portrayal of the creature is compelling. His ungainly gait and halting speech embody the imperfection of his physical body, and contrast completely with the intelligence the creature very quickly displays. Against this image of the creature is set the handsome, assured, articulate and calculating Frankenstein, played by Adam Owers. The contrast between the two characters could not be greater. It is an excellent piece of casting.
This is a play that will shock, and surprise the audience - there are brutal and bloody scenes, but also moments of heart aching compassion, and even some humour. You will find your sympathies lie with the creature - misunderstood wretch that he is, even at his darkest moments he is a worthier character than his creator.
The staging, lighting, sound, all contribute to the immersive experience for the audience. Frankenstein addresses the audience in the first scene effectively drawing us into the narrative, and at times characters enter from the back of the auditorium - from rowdy, riotous villages to the terrified, and terrifying creature - ensuring that we never relax or feel complacent about what is unfolding on stage. We feel we are somehow complicit in the action.
To leave the theatre still feeling the emotional effects of what you have seen and experienced is the sign of a good production. The People's Theatre's production of Frankenstein does exactly that. It is definitely not for the faint hearted, but you definitely should experience it.
It plays until Sat 25th May.