“Fiction holds up a better mirror to the world than any list of facts.”
These astute words from playwright Rona Munro fall from the lips of our narrator, Mary Shelley herself, as we watch a different kind of Frankenstein, playing at the intimate King’s Theatre. This new adaptation of the famed Gothic masterpiece puts the oft-overlooked female author right at the frightening forefront of her own monstrous tale, this time more a social commentary piece than a jump scare. (For fans of a jump scare, don't fret- there are still a few!)
Well-suited to the spooky season upon us, Munro takes a story that has been endlessly caricaturised and brings inventiveness to this tale of gruesome invention. This Frankenstein begs the questions, “Who is the monster: the creation or the creator?” and “What happens when men create mayhem for their own success and glory and attempt to flee from the consequences?”
While Eilidh Loan as Mary Shelley is stirring, carrying the piece with vibrant energy and plenty of comedic asides to the audience, the supporting characters, having been given weaker context and content outside of the centre story of Mary, man and monster, fall a bit one note. The set is constantly engaging, with the actors moving fluidly in, amongst and above it, thanks to Jonnie Riordan’s shrewd movement direction. Composed of a stark white, two-story structure, bookshelves and forced perspective make a living room, a lab, a gallows. The most intriguing element of the set is the highlighting of white trees and of one tree in particular settled upstage. This one has been upended, just as the laws of nature have also been by Victor Frankenstein. The branches become roots and then veins, pulsing as The Monster comes to life.
This is a slow burn, but the art lies in the twisted narrative, the showcasing of Mary Shelley in the centre of the action, even if it is a bit too ambitious to truly execute on any driving theme or themes, be that destruction, responsibility, feminism, connection or otherness. Those looking for wide-eyeing scares take note: this thriller trades the visceral for the cerebral, the fear brewing from a place which knows that the monster, whatever your monster may be, may not come today or tomorrow, but it will come eventually and with no escape in sight. Frankenstein is definitely eerie and atmospheric, but horrifying, in the traditional sense, it is not.
MON 21 OCT TO SAT 26 OCT 2019
Evenings 7.30pm, Matinees Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Running time (approx.): 1 hour 55 minutes (incl. 20 min interval)