Taking my A-Level knowledge of Frankenstein with me to The Creature – Frankenstein Retold, I was still left surprised with some of the novel elements in this production. For the most part, these were quite intriguing; for instance, the creator being portrayed as a young woman and her lover, Elizabeth, being presented as her queer companion.
However, in attempted to bring the old tale into the twenty first century, it actually spelt its demise in many ways. The play’s attempt at globalising the central theme of ‘monstrosity’ as encompassing all of humanity went largely under-developed and, well, just a bit stale. These new ‘concepts’ felt nothing short of random; the idea of humanity being a virus which our creator was trying to wipe out, a concept left largely untapped, especially given the prominence it was granted at the beginning. Or when, in a timely nod to today’s climate, the mentions of the nature of trees, and how everything was interconnected in the same way that our computers supposedly connect – yet create a disconnection between us humans in today’s world.
I ached for the tenuous moments of connection shared between the key characters and the drama that ensued, their attempts at making sense of the struggles they had faced together and that had ultimately drawn them apart – like a mass shooting experienced by all in the first half (though that also felt somewhat random and disconnected from the rest of the plot).
The second half saw the introduction of Frankenstein’s creature, and at last the play pivoted in the right direction. The creature’s birth was highly enjoyable, emerging from the ever-present towering tree-like structure, wires and television screens protruding in a maleficent manner, jolts of light emerging as its creator frantically typed the creature’s coding into an apple computer.
The writing, especially for the creature, was at times beautifully heart aching, none more so than when she declared she could ‘feel everything’ even as society, her own mother included, pushed her away. Anna Pryce impressed, highlighting the frail nature of the creature, and Eleanor Clark made a powerful madwoman creator, looking deranged even as she was trying to be affable. It was a pity that despite these strong performances, the relationship was not further explored.
Ultimately, I think the play attempted too much, bringing too many elements from today’s world which failed to add much to the narrative. If anything, they actually made it all the more confusing to understand, which in turn, took away some of my enjoyment.
Based on the novel by: Mary Shelley
Adapted by: Ciaran McConville
Directed by: Lucy Morrell
Playing until: This show has completed its current run