Well acted but confusingly adapted, Frankenstein: In Darkness We Rise at the Gilded Ballon Wine Bar is an unsatisfying hour of theatre.
Mary Shelley’s novel about Victor Frankenstein, who creates life in the form of a hideous, misunderstood creature, has of course been retold many times in a variety of media. This new version by director Susannah Cavill for Fringe Management and Canny Creatures certainly seems to assume some familiarity with the story. The play opens with the Creature already walking about, and it seems likely that the back story will be filled in later.
This does not happen to any great degree. With the focus firmly on the relationship between creator and creation, other characters are treated in a cavalier manner, making it difficult to follow for a beginner.
Those who do know the story will find it no less confusing, particularly considering the stress laid on a love triangle involving Victor, his fiancee Elizabeth and his friend Henry – a sub-plot that takes up far too much time when less than an hour is available.
Cavill’s direction is more sure-footed, with imaginative use being made of the acting space. However, there is no consistency in how Gothic or even how frightening the production should be, meaning it is never particular horrific or, frankly, particularly involving.
This is not the fault of the cast, who do their best. Michael Roy Andrew’s Victor Frankenstein is suitably tortured, even if what exactly he has done and why remain a mystery here. Nigel Miles-Thomas has a real physical presence as the Creature, but once again the character’s development is lacking.
Gerry Kielty’s Henry is affable and convincing enough to allay doubts that the character perhaps could have been left out of the adaptation altogether. This could be said for most of the roles played by Paul Haley and Kirsty Eila McIntyre, who do their best to flesh the characters out.
Aiden Fisher’s Justine, meanwhile, is brought on simply to be wrongfully executed, with it being difficult to care very much one way or the other or even being made entirely clear who she is. So much of the story has been jettisoned that what is left cannot bear the weight.
The scenes between Frankenstein and the Creature work so much better than the rest that the suspicion that it would have been better as a two-hander is unavoidable. None of this is noticeably bad; it is just all a little puzzling.
Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14), Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ
Wednesday 3 – Monday 29 August 2016
Daily at 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/frankenstein
Company website: http://www.fringemanagement.com/cannycreatures/