Sunday, March 20, 2011

Play Review: Frankenstein

Last Thursday I went to a local movie theatre and checked out the latest National Live Theatre presentation, Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Johnny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. The premise of National Live Theatre is that a live stage show in the UK is broadcast to movie theatres throughout the world. The ticket was a little more expensive (about $20), and the theatre was pretty empty – approximately 25 people in total.

The production has a bit of a gimmick, the two leads actually switch parts every show, so depending on which day you go one will be playing the monster and the other will be playing the doctor. Thursdays show featured Cumberbatch as the creature and Miller as the Doctor. The show began on time, without trailers and was introduced by a pleasant on-screen woman introduced the play as well as a short, behind-the-scenes film about the making of the play (it ran roughly ten minutes).

The play began by focusing entirely on the creature – if you’re not familiar with the novel, most adaptations begin with the creator going through his young life on the road to creation (technically it began at the end of the story and he describes his story to the captain of a ship, but ignoring the framing device, the story follows the doctor and we perceive the creature through his eyes). The doctor makes a very brief appearance at the beginning and then the play basically becomes focused on the creatures story. A quick side note – I was totally thrilled to see the blind man who befriends the creature was played by Karl Johnson, who I’ve loved in both HBO’s Rome and Lark Rise to Candleford.

The second half of the play focuses largely on the doctor, and it is exactly that format – the creature in the beginning and the doctor in the end that really got me looking at the story in a new light. The two leads were fantastic, having only seen Cumberbatch in Sherlock and Atonement, I was blown away by his portrayal of the creature. As the Doctorm, Miller was pretty much exactly the dark intense character you expect Victor to be – which is funny because I’m most familiar with his work in Eli Stone, where he played a lawyer/prophet and Hackers where he played a young criminal – both far cries from the creator of this plays terrible creature.

In the end the play was fantastic, I am definitely hoping to see it with the roles reversed and if you’re interested, you should definitely check out the encore performance on Thursday, March 31st, at wherever is closest for you.

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