I love the story of Frankenstein, and even more so the story behind the story of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley travelling with Percy Shelley (her soon to be husband), Lord Byron, and another friend had a bet to see who could come up with the best horror story. They were in Geneva, where the story is set, and were discussing all sorts of ideas and the occult. Mary spent some time thinking about what her story would be and Frankenstein came to her in a dream...sounds more like a nightmare. There is a fabulous movie called Gothic by Ken Russell that focuses on this weekend with Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, Julian Sands as Percy, and the gorgeous Gabriel Byrne as Byron...prancing around the countryside in velvet making my heart all a flutter...but I digress...
Well, not really, as my heart was all a flutter at the theatrical performance of Frankenstein the other night.
Part of the subscription series at The Civic Theatre in Newcastle, this reworking of Frankenstein was originally presented at the National Theatre in London, and directed by Danny Boyle with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of The Creature and Frankenstein each night...ohh, that would be something!
When I saw it listed as an option I was keen, but it sounded very dark and had warnings on it! M was unsure but I convinced her to go with me!
So we headed out to The Civic on Friday, both tired and recovering from bouts of feeling unwell, and quite frankly thinking we'd both rather be at home in our PJs. I almost didn't have a glass of bubbly prior to the show for fear it might make me sleepier...almost...
We needn't have worried about falling asleep. From the moment the cellist on stage started to play, and The Creature awoke, we were transfixed!
Yes! A Cellist on stage, at the back, away from the action, but there and playing perfect accompaniment to the drama unfolding. I love Cellos, and it really was a haunting and romantic way to soundtrack the story. And there is lots of romance in Frankenstein.
But back to The Creature, he twisted and writhed and scratched and moaned and groaned and yelled for a good 10 minutes. Imagine an adult being born, it was primal and disgusting and sexy and hypnotic. The actor, who's name I am ashamed I do not know, was utterly beguiling. You could not take your eyes off him the entire time he was on stage, which was most of the play. His physique was outstanding, tall and muscular and perfectly formed, with make up to show the bastardisation of his construction.
The entire cast were amazing, taking on the multiple roles within the lengthy tale. In particular the women and the man who played the blind man who initially befriends The Creature and teaches him language.
The drama was unrelenting, but with timely moments of humour and romanticism. It worked very well on the stage with a simple set. Great effects like sheer curtains and falling snow, dark backdrops, and of course the music added to the gothic atmosphere of this haunting tale.
I knew there was no break, and when it ended I realised just over two hours had gone by...you never felt it.
There were times I almost turned away as the drama was a bit too much, and times I had tears in my eyes, and many that I laughed out loud. It was a truly remarkable experience. And what a feat for that brilliant actor to keep The Creature 'alive' on stage for that length of time, what a physical role it was.
What I found interesting after all was said and done, was how many people were still sitting in their seats, a bit taken aback and in awe of their experience I guess, M and I were much the same. We were blown away. Easily the best play I have seen in a long, long time. Suffice to say we both said we were thrilled we had decided to go.
It only had 2 nights in Newcastle, but if you are elsewhere and it is playing, you simply must go and soak it all up.