Days Out · Theatre Stuff

Out and About : Frankenstein.

What?Frankenstein.
Where?The National Theatre, London.
How much? Tickets range between £12 and £45 for adults, discounts are available.
When?The play runs until 2nd May 2011. It is sold out but returns and day tickets may be available.

Over the last few weeks I have seen Danny Boyle’s version of Frankenstein twice. Once at the National Theatre and once via NT Live at my local cinema. The theatre visit came first, as soon as I got home from it I booked my cinema ticket to see it again.

The current production of Frankenstein has some very attractive features. The first of these is the fact it is the brainchild of Danny Boyle. He was directing for the theatre before he moved into tv and film so it’s a return to his roots. The second appealing factor was that the script was going to be telling the story of the creature, returning far more to Shelley’s original novel. Finally the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller as the two leads, alternating playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature each night was intriguing.

A Tale of Two Creatures
When I saw Frankenstein at the National Theatre Benedict Cumberbatch took the role of Victor and Johnny Lee Miller played the Creature. The NT Live broadcast that I watched had them playing the opposite roles, so Cumberbatch was the Creature and Miller played Victor.

I enjoyed both performances thoroughly, though I would have to say that I preferred the first time that I saw it. I had expected this to work better, both actors were playing the roles that were the more obvious choice for themselves. I did find it interesting that the NT Live broadcast was live in the evening on the same day that the recording had been made for the transmission on the 24th March when the actors played the opposite role. I wonder whether it was hard to switch roles between the two performances – on the days when they normally do a matinee and evening the actors play the same role for both performances.

A Light and Sound Show.
Two of the most effective parts of the play for me were the use of light and sound. There was a lighting feature that hung above the stage with hundreds of light bulbs of all shapes and sizes hanging from it. These were used to punctuate the performance, flashes of light moving across the board in a range of colours and intensities to match the tone of what was happening down below on the stage. There were times when I found myself wondering how a simple looking piece of electronics could have such an effect.

Underworld provided the fantastic musical soundtrack to the play. From the eerie tones that accompany the build up to the beginning of the play to the joyful accompaniment of the Creature’s exploration of the world the soundtrack was stunning throughout. I have found myself humming parts of it at the most random of times, I’m thrilled it has now been released to buy.

Oh no they didn’t!
The only real criticism I could give to the production comes with the script for the minor characters. The scenes when the Creature learns from DeLacey were wonderful but they were interspersed with scenes featuring DeLacey’s son and daughter-in-law that sounded like something from my local pantomime. Elizabeth also suffered from the scripting, she had some weak lines to deliver and was clearly capable of more. This was a real shame as the plotting of the entire play was excellent and the dialogue given to the leads was far far better.

I thoroughly enjoyed this take on Frankenstein and I hope the National Theatre will be releasing the NT Live versions to dvd so I can enjoy it for years to come.

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2 thoughts on “Out and About : Frankenstein.

  1. Ooh, sounds interesting. The NT live thing sounds like a good way to access plays from outside London, too. I used to think it was a bit of a rip-off, but now I think it might be pretty good — at least you’re guaranteed to get a good view, and it makes theatre more accessible.

    1. I’m a complete convert to NT live – it’s so expensive and so time consuming to get to see a play in London so this is definitely the next best thing. I’ll certainly be using it again.

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