This adaptation of Mary Shelley’s book does not have that Hollywood Hammer Horror green monster vibe, but is just as unsettling. Having re-read the book fairly recently, I was interested to see how Blackeyed Theatre were going to manage to get everything in to a two hour(ish) stage time. The answer is, really well.
The simple but convincing set consists mainly of a wooden contraption and large white sheet which, with good use of a few other props, draws us into ship, laboratory, mountains, and all the other locations. I am not sure if it is deliberate or not, but the occasional huge shadows cast on the plain backdrop hint at an ominous presence.
The human cast of five deliver first-rate performances and all are deserving of a mention. Highlights for me include Alice E Mayer’s instant transformation into a five year old Elizabeth; Max Gallagher’s portrayal of the hapless, likeable Henry Clerval; Benedict Hastings capturing Robert Walton’s ambition; Robert Bradley as Victor Frankenstein, alternating between different times of the character’s life as he relates his story to Captain Walton; switching from despair to youthful zeal, through a kind of madness, and back to despair. Last but not least, Billy Irving providing the haunting main voice for the creature. Which brings me to the sixth member of the cast, portrayed by a life-sized puppet, created by Yvonne Stone. As with any good puppet design and skilful animation, it was easy to very quickly forget about the puppeteers and view it as a living, breathing being. I have already mentioned Billy Irving as the main voice, but when more of the cast join him in speaking the dialogue in unison at times of stress the multiple voices emphasise the creature’s conflict within, and serve as a reminder that it has been made from body parts of many people.
Throughout the play, sound is used highly creatively. Delivered by the cast using a selection of drums, keyboard, bells, whistles and other assorted objects, it provides a really effective, atmospheric accompaniment to the action, complementing the mood and heightening tension, including creating an absolutely horrifying moment when a character’s neck is broken. I still get the shivers thinking about it.
My only niggle is that there were a few places where it felt as though someone had hit the fast forward button without me noticing, which has an impact on some of the character development, especially, I imagine, for someone not that familiar with the original book. The fast-moving plot and excellent cast soon made up for any gaps though.
This is a very enjoyable evening, worth getting tickets for, but be sure to wrap up in plenty of layers. For some reason the theatre was absolutely freezing, with people sitting in their coats. Or, to quote a fellow audience member, maybe that was a result of the chilling story.
Adapted by: Nick Lane
Based upon an original adaptation by: John Ginman.
Directed by: Eliot Giuralarocca
Puppetry by: Yvonne Stone
Music composed by: Ron McAllister
Musical Direction by: Ellie Verkerk
Produced by: Adrian McDougall
Frankenstein is touring nationally until 29 March, full dates can be found via the below link. The show is also available to watch on-demand until 5 March here.