‘Little in the way of pre-Halloween excitement’: FRANKENSTEIN – Touring

In Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson

Confused in its execution, Selladoor’s touring version of Frankenstein has high production values but offers little in the way of pre-Halloween excitement.

The story – the scientist who seeks power over death, and ends up giving life to a creature of less-than-divine appearance, who disappoints its creator and is misunderstood by the world in general – is of course well known and often adapted.

Rona Munro’s new version, presented by Selladoor in collaboration with Perth Theatre, the Belgrade Coventry and Matthew Townshend Productions, stands out by putting the novel’s teenage creator Mary Shelley front and centre. It is she, rather than the Doctor or the Creature, who is the central figure here, with the scares coming from the workings of a patriarchal society that ignores the demands of its weaker members.

This is an excellent idea for a version of Frankenstein – unfortunately, it fails to work in practice. Instead, what ensues is a faithful if somewhat rushed retelling of the story, with its writer constantly commenting on it.

The character repeats or anticipates dialogue in order both to emphasise and undermine, repeatedly and needlessly points out the themes and stresses her own cleverness, even to the point of declaring early on ‘that’s a proper deathbed scene – you’re welcome’. As a depiction of the process of artistic creation, it is heavy-handed to say the least.

Eilidh Loan’s Mary is very well done, with a combination of political fury, ingenuity and teenage impetuosity, but the whole concept sits oddly. Munro’s dialogue for the character is unsurprisingly vibrant, and a whole play about her would work. Here she is underdeveloped, and appears as an intruder in her own creation, which also suffers as a result, ending up as singularly unGothic and entirely lacking in horror,

Becky Minto’s enclosed set and Simon Slater’s crunchy sound design add atmosphere, but Patricia Benecke’s direction is oddly bloodless, with Ben Castle Gibb’s Frankenstein strangely lacking in passion. Natali McCleary, as his fiancee Elizabeth, does better in suggesting hidden reserves, but it is clear that Munro does not know quite what to make of what is – to modern eyes – such a weirdly subservient character.

Michael Moreland’s Monster is less otherworldly and gruesome than most versions of the Creature, and is played with great empathy. In one sense, this makes his treatment and subsequent actions more realistic; however, these gains are offset by a considerable loss of impact and potential terror.

The other cast members – Thierry Mabonga, Sarah MacGillivray and the estimable Greg Powrie – discharge their roles diligently, but the absence of urgency leads to a general lack of direction.

Strangest of all is how untroubling it all is. Several times, Mary informs us how what we are seeing is horrifying. We, however, will be the judges of that – and instead it is merely baffling.

Running time 1 hour 55 minutes including one interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven St, EH3 9LQ
Monday 21 – Saturday 26 October 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here

Frankenstein on tour:

21 – 26 October
Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000
Book online

28 October – 2 November
Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889
Book online

4 – 9 November
Guildford
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
01483 44 00 00
Book online

11 – 16 November
Liverpool
Playhouse
0151 709 4776
Book online

18 – 23 November
Richmond
Theatre
0844 871 7651
Book online

25 – 30 November
Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647
Book online

Frankenstein tour continues in 2020:

13 – 18 Jan, 2020
Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892277
Book online

20 – 25 Jan, 2020
Derby
Derby Theatre
01332 59 39 39
Book online

27 Jan – 1 Feb, 2020
Mold
Theatre Clwyd
01352 701521
Book online

4 – 8 Feb, 2020
Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122
Book online

10 – 15 Feb, 2020
Huddersfield
Lawrence Batley Theatre
01484 430 528
Book online

18 – 22 Feb, 2020
Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234234
Book online

24 – 29 Feb, 2020
Manchester
Middleton Arena
0300 303 8633
Book online

2 – 7 Mar, 2020
Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627
Book online

The cast of Frankenstein. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

ENDS

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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