Home » Reviews » Drama » Frankenstein: The Metal Opera, The Space Arts Centre – Review
Credit: The Space
Credit: The Space

Frankenstein: The Metal Opera, The Space Arts Centre – Review

Pros: Strong performances, great music, and excellent design.

Cons: A little heavy on the fog effects.

Pros: Strong performances, great music, and excellent design. Cons: A little heavy on the fog effects. For a story with such dark themes, Frankenstein: The Metal Opera looks like a lot of fun for its performers. The production takes the source material seriously and this isn't a lighthearted look at Mary Shelley's classic work. Still, one of the great joys of the performance is watching composer and lyricist Richard Campbell at the back of the stage pounding out the heartbeat of the show on the drums and evidently having the time of his life. Campbell has written intriguing music full…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

Fabulous gothic fun in a quirky format.

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For a story with such dark themes, Frankenstein: The Metal Opera looks like a lot of fun for its performers. The production takes the source material seriously and this isn’t a lighthearted look at Mary Shelley’s classic work. Still, one of the great joys of the performance is watching composer and lyricist Richard Campbell at the back of the stage pounding out the heartbeat of the show on the drums and evidently having the time of his life.

Campbell has written intriguing music full of depth, with tunes that range from toe-tappingly catchy to powerfully operatic. One of my favourites was the simple instrumental ‘The Veil’, representing both the marriage between Victor Frankenstein and his beloved Elizabeth, and the hidden secret which keeps them apart emotionally. (Tip: if you start bringing people back from the dead, it’s common courtesy to warn your loved ones. Victor, sadly, learns this too late.) This song provides a beautiful counterpoint to the more powerful numbers like ‘Modern Prometheus’ and ‘Retribution’. I can’t say I was quite as keen on the lyrics as the score. On the plus side many passages within the lyrics are taken directly from the novel itself, which helps keep the production grounded in the spirit of Mary Shelley’s work.

The show is told as a retrospective, with the timeline shifting periodically from the frame story of Dr Frankenstein reminiscing about his story into the moments when the action occurred. These transitions are managed within scenes with effective staging keeping the boundaries between the two different narratives very crisp. James Craze leads the charge as Walton, the sea captain who finds Frankenstein (Roy Ryan) wandering across the arctic, chasing down his creation. Ryan brings power and energy to his performance of the morally corrupt doctor as he confesses his history to Walton and his crew.

Frankenstein’s downfall starts with the death of his mother, which encourages him to pursue scientific experiments into the restoration of life to inanimate tissue. When he at last achieves his goal of reanimating a dead human, Frankenstein suddenly realizes his hubris and error, fleeing from his creation and returning to his family home. Victor’s childhood sweetheart Elizabeth (Anya Hamilton) provides a tempering influence, allowing Frankenstein to express the better parts of himself and the noble intentions that he once had. Frankenstein reveals to Elizabeth that he’s done something bad but is still unable to redeem himself. He never explains to anyone exactly what he’s done, even going so far as to allow an innocent person to be put to death for crimes he knows were committed by his creation.

Though present early on, the Creature (Duncan Drury) remains mute until relatively late in the show. His eye-popping stage makeup more than makes up for his silence at first. Drury invests the Creature with a dignity and earnestness that makes him sympathetic despite his violent crimes, committed as an act of vengeance against his creator’s lack of empathy. Charlotte de Paeztron and Max Panks round out the cast’s vocal presence as minor characters.

A major strength of this show is the design, which makes the most of The Space‘s auditorium with a nifty modular set tinged by Gothic elements. Lighting is used to great effect to shift the atmospheric sense throughout the show. The design, music and performing all come together to make Frankenstein a fully envisioned little universe of sci-fi spectacle. It is epic, operatic, carefully considered, and yet not without humour: after the well-deserved applause the audience exits to the classic novelty song “Monster Mash”. This light touch at the finish gave just the right tone, recognizing Frankenstein’s presence in pop culture as well as Shelley’s original intentions for her creation.

Music, Book & Lyrics: Richard Campbell and Carol Pestridge
Director: Alan Mandel
Produced by: IOGIG Ltd, Olivia Dermot Walsh and Ian Taylor
Design: Orpheus Studio Productions
Lighting Design: Sarah Sage
Costumes: Sarah Dutton
Special Effects Makeup Designer: Ali Reith
Box Office: 020 7515 7799
Booking Until: 1 November 2014

About Caitlin McDonald

Caitlin McDonald
Doctor of belly dance and data ninja! Caitlin did her PhD about belly dancing (true story.) She even wrote a book or two about it. Then she went out and got a job in data analytics, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. This gives her the power to make an algorithm out of anything... and put sequins on it. Caitlin likes all types of performance, even mimes. You can follow her blog at the link below where she writes about everything from dance to data science.
  • Mick Ellison

    Hi Caitlin, a good incisive review. However, someone interested in seeing the show after reading this review would be bitterly disappointed – Review posted on Mon 3rd November while last tickets could only be bought up until Sat 1st November!

    ‘Everything Theatre’ needs to sort out horse and cart priorities.

    x

    • Hi Mick – glad you enjoyed Caitlin’s review!

      Just wanted to clarify ET’s “modus operandi” for you. I do understand that publishing a review after the run has ended seems pointless from the perspective of the audience, but we do not pick and choose which shows we review based on how long they are running for. This is very different from most reviewing websites.

      We choose ours based purely on a first come first serve basis – sometimes we will review shows that only have a single performance, and sometimes we will review shows right at the end of their run if that’s the first date that our reviewing team can make.

      The logic behind this is that a review is not just for the potential audience, but also an important source of feedback for production companies themselves – we will therefore offer to review single night performances as well as performances of shows right at the end of their run (if the company will still have us of course).

      We do this because it is the only fair way to do things – we believe all shows deserve a chance to be reviewed, but sometimes that leads to some odd publication dates!