Encore “Frankenstein” Production Leaves Viewers Pleasantly Overwhelmed
This past Wednesday night at Rave Cinemas in Davenport, WIU-QC’S student group LASSO (Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Organization) hosted small student gathering to watch a screening of an encore televised production of Frankenstein performed at the Royal National Theater in London.
Nick Dear’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s original novel was directed by Danny Boyle, known for films Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, and 127 Hours starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as the lead characters. While these names alone would make any theater junkie or pop culture nerd leap at the opportunity to witness this performance, the stars were not the only selling point. In this production, the two lead actors would switch their roles every performance.
Previously in the week, there was a screening of Cumberbatch as the Creature and Miller as the creator, Victor Frankenstein. The screening students watched on Wednesday had the roles reversed.
Visually, the stage was very mechanical, featuring a rotating circular center stage that could rise up and down into the ground to reveal new settings in time and environments like a bedroom, or grassy area. The focal point of lighting for the stage was a tall, makeshift ceiling of hundreds of suspended light bulbs that would, at times, emulate lightning or a glittering sky. Industrial Revolution inspired architecture, emphasized by gears and cogs, gave for a surprisingly fitted steampunk aesthetic.
Along with the stage setting, the drama’s themes were extreme at times, in regards to their semi-existentially emotional subject matter. The adaptation focused more on the Creature, as he developed from an infant-like state of being to an educated, thoughtful, articulate man. In the opening of the play, the Creature was visible as a silhouette behind what resembled and symbolized a womb. He was then “born” and carried the traits exactly like those of a newborn: the inability to walk, talk, or comprehend. Miller did an excellent job as he portrayed a childlike character with moments that depicted the Creature who spoke the incoherent language of a yelling baby, complete with a drool covered face. But as the Creature was a fast learner, the audience watched how he gained the ability to walk and talk, and eventually, was educated through the topics of war, tragedy, hate, and anger from classical literature, full of ideas and history that corrupted his somewhat born innocence and ignorance. This would eventually address what is the never ending debate of nature versus nurture: did society allow the Creature to become who he was, or was it his creator’s doing?
Since most of the students, myself included, did not see the flipped performance earlier that week, there was no way to point out differences between the two lead actors. It was a very unexpectedly emotional performance, probably due to the deeper subject matter of morality and the downfall of man. The play was a definitely a surprise and all involved in the performance did a job well done, as viewers were left pleased and chatty with discussion.