Pros: An original play somewhat reminiscent of the Netflix show the OA, with some ingeniously simple costume and lighting used to create gruesome special effects.
Cons: The script could have picked up the pace in places.
‘The Men who made Frankenstein’ is a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein, written and directed by Simon Christopher as part of the London Horror Festival.
The play begins with Rupert, who is dressed in rags, sitting on the floor sewing strips of cloth together. Lying on another part of the stage was a body underneath a funeral shroud. The shroud contains Edward, a criminal who it transpires has been hanged. However, when Rupert pulls the shroud he comes back to life.
Two further captives join Edward and Rupert one-by-one. Firstly, Margaret (a murderer who has been hanged) and then Modesty (a socialite who has been murdered). Each is trapped in their own cell unable to reach the others. It is through the character’s telling of their own stories, as well as through the narrator, that we unpick the stories from their arrival at the prison and begin to realise what their fates will be.
Narrated via a voice-over by a pathologist in the current day, we understand that scientists have found the body of Frankenstein’s monster in a glacier. Through her we come to realise that the lack of cellular damage on the body of the means that the donors of the monster’s body parts must have been alive when their body parts were harvested.
The play is set in a prison made of four cells which is simply but effectively staged by white gaffer tape stuck to the black floor in triangles. The actors stay captive within their triangles giving a claustrophobic sense of being trapped together against their will.
The acting from all five was good but lacked subtlety in places, with raised voices used to express emotion in highly charged moments.
Costumes were modest but worked well. Plain white fabric was used as trousers, dresses, shrouds, bedding and nooses. As the play progresses, black fabric gives the illusion of missing limbs and blood-soaked bandages represent harvested organs.
The lighting played a crucial part in creating tension in the play. There were blackouts each time Edward, Modesty and Rupert were taken, red lights for the inmates and spotlights when each returned with their body parts missing.
Horror is a genre that you don’t often see tacked in the theatre, but this production did it well and on a small budget. Definitely worth seeing over the spooky Halloween period.
Written & Directed by: Simon Christopher
Booking until: This show has now completed its run.