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January 13th - January 18th
An eighteen year-old girl, Mary Shelley, dreams up a monster whose tragic story will capture the imaginations of generations to come.
A young scientist by the name of Frankenstein breathes life into a gruesome body. Banished into an indifferent world, Frankenstein’s creature desperately seeks out his true identity, but the agony of rejection and a broken promise push him into darkness. Dangerous and vengeful, the creature threatens to obliterate Frankenstein and everyone he loves, in a ferocious and bloodthirsty hunt for his maker.
Rona Munro’s brilliant new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece places the writer herself amongst the action as she wrestles with her creation and with the stark realities facing revolutionary young women, then and now.
Running time: approx. 2 hours, including interval.
Production Photographs by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Set against an eerie, monochrome background, Rona Munro’s ambitious stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s seminal gothic work, Frankenstein, places the author herself onstage, exploring the relationship between the writer, their work and the audience. Shelley, brilliantly portrayed by Eilidh Loan, dominates the stage, and Loan captures the frustration of a passionate young woman confined by the repressive gender roles of her time, also adding a dark humour to the play through Shelley’s asides.
Shelley’s ambition, her desire to create something great, is mirrored by that of Frankenstein (Ben Castle-Gibbs), who fervently pursues his research to the exclusion of all else, including his loved ones and own well-being, determined to create life and urged on by Shelley, his own creator. Similarly, when Frankenstein is repulsed by his creation, Shelley too is horrified at what she has created. Just as Frankenstein made his monster live, so did Shelley. The play even suggests that Shelley’s words are far more powerful than the science worshipped by Frankenstein. Something made by science can be killed – in the original novel, after Frankenstein’s death, the monster ventures out onto the ice, intent on killing itself, but at the culmination of Munro’s adaptation, Shelley drags the monster from its pyre – from hell itself – and tells it to ‘live.’ Frankenstein – no, Shelley’s – monster cannot be unwritten. It lives on, in the hundreds of copies of Shelley’s novel that exist around the world, in adaptations like this one, in our imaginations.
Shelley’s masterpiece has been reimagined countless times, turned into films, television series, plays, studied in classrooms and lecture halls. According to Roland Barthes 1967 essay, The Death of the Author, once published, an author’s work no longer belongs to them – their opinion, their interpretation, is only as valid as every other. Just as Frankenstein cannot control his murderous creation, Shelley cannot control how her work is interpreted and adapted.
Congratulations to this young vibrant and energetic cast, a superb performance of a fresh adaptation of the book, as narrated by Mary Shelley. Great atmospheric set, I really enjoyed your interpretation. Thank you!
Extremely underrated!!! Incredible actors with an intriguing and gripping storyline. You don’t want the experience to be over! Amazing set and amazing cast, thank you!
Choice Radio Worcester
Starting - and ending - on board an expedition ship heading for the North Pole, this new stage version of Frankenstein sheds the novel's correspondence between Captain Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. Instead, a much more daring and unexpected device is used by writer Rona Munro to portray the events which lead to the creation of the un-named monster. For the narration is done by Mary Shelley herself and the story plays out in real-time as the author ponders how such an act could happen and then, as she writes it, she sees it acted out in front of her. Written more than 200 years ago during what was termed the Year Without Summer, when severe climate abnormalities would have kept Shelley cooped up indoors for much of the time, this was a period which would have let her mind wander...
As the crew of the ship spot a man - and something else - on the ice, the ending has apparently already been written. The problem for Shelley is how this forlorn creature and its creator came to be in such a perilous situation and so the author neatly takes us back to beginning to build up the story of how young Victor, obsessed with theories of human creation, moves to the University of Ingolstadt and in doing so begins experiments to create one himself. The creature has thoughts and needs of his own, however, which Victor cannot, or will not, fulfil leading to a climax which is not what Victor was anticipating.
This is all done on a monochrome set - rarely is there any colour involved - which makes the special effects stand out all the more as the Creature comes to life. Eilidh Loan who plays Mary Shelley is excellent in the role, talking to the audience, writing the scenarios and then mingling with the actors as they enact their parts - a combination which really shouldn't work but which in fact does work very well indeed and moreover feels quite natural, particularly the amusing and knowing asides which she sometime makes which makes the audience laugh. Ben Castle-Gibb plays the young Victor, going through various emotions as he finally creates this living being whilst struggling with the death of his mother and his fateful relationship with his adopted sister Elizabeth (Natali McCleary). Perhaps the most difficult character to portray is the monster himself, supposedly over 8 feet tall with hideous features that disgust and repel everyone who comes into contact with him. This is handed to Michael Moreland who, whilst not being 8 foot tall, certainly cuts a great creature with a booming amplified voice and awkward motion. With Thierry Mabonga, Sarah MacGillivray and Greg Powrie taking on the other characters, this is an ensemble which works well together, with Shelley at its core.
Whilst faithfully telling the story of Frankenstein and his monster creation, for whom, in spite of his actions, there will always be some sympathy as he did not choose to be as he is, the addition of the author herself on stage and her albeit imagined writing process and the immediate enactment of those thoughts in front of her very eyes brings a new aspect to an age-old tale and the cheers from the audience at the end were well deserved and welcome.
Trelawney of the Wells
Having Mary Shelley at the heart of the action writing what we were seeing being played out was a clever conceit. But it is also the adaptation's major flaw - making Mary a very modern woman, stroppy, highly sarcastic with lots of "attitude" became irritating quite quickly. And, more importantly, her constant interjections from the p.o.v. of the author undercut any tension or emotion in the original tale.
There was a moment when it looked as if we were going to get quite a good debate going about the responsibilities of writers (if Dr F feels guilt for creating the monster, shouldn't MS also?), but it didn't really go anywhere.
We also had the recurring problems at the FT of a) actors who can't project vocally (one particular culprit last night), and b) multi-layered sets that mean anyone sitting towards the back of the stalls can't see half the show.
Average acting throughout - but two stars for the much more commendable set, lighting and sound.
Sadly, not a great start to Malvern's Theatre Year.
Excellent production which deserves a larger audience. Clever stylistic adaptation which fully engages the audience and breathes new life into classic horror. Full marks to the cast and production team for an enjoyably immersive experience.
What a Fabulous portrayal of FRANKENSTEIN This was and EILIDH LOAN as Mary Shelley And BEN CASTLE GIBB as Frankenstein They were amazing plus this was there there First Professional STAGE Debut On this Production Surely Two Future Stats in the Making
The Production,Set and Acting was first class and if you haven't Booked yet do it NOW !!
It's a not to be missed Play
Well written from a modern perspective, thought provoking and with the pathos quite unexpected, then a shock ending. Performed with aplomb and verve. Many asides, some humorous, enticed the audience and involved us all.
Quite dull and boring.
I really loved this interpretation of the Frankenstein tale. It got under the skin of the characters, and also of their creator Mary Shelley. We forget that although Dr Frankenstein was the monster's creator, Mary Shelley was his. The play was thrilling and entertaining to the end!