My way of closing International Women’s Day this week was attending a show inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic gothic tale, written by Tristan Bernays and directed by Eleanor Rhode: Frankenstein. The show lasts a little over an hour and is explosive in its compactness and detail.
Personal anecdote: my family’s nickname for my brother Frank is Frankenstein. I think that when a lot of people picture Frankenstein, they think of the Creature when in fact, it is the Creator who is named that way! As you must have noticed, the words Creator and Creature are very close – something that was used in Rhode’s production.
This was my first time at Wilton Music Hall, tucked into a small pedestrian street in the old Whitechapel area. The venue is no too big, and lends itself very well to this kind of intimate dark story while still welcoming quite a few audience members.
Frankenstein’s cast is made up of only two actors, George Fletcher and Rowena Lennon. Fletcher plays the Creature as well as the Creator, first embodying the former while awakening to nature, language and his lonely fate. Lennon plays multiple characters and plays the flute and the accordion to support the story’s surprises and sometimes very creepy events. In the story, the Creature kills those that mock him and comes face to face with how mean people can be until he comes back to his Creator to ask him for a female mate. Dr Frankenstein starts working on the second creature but in fear of what could become of this kind of couple on planet Earth, he interrupts his work at the risk of putting himself and his wife Elisabeth in danger.
The atmosphere in the theatre was just creepy enough, supported by the excellent physicality of both actors, especially Fletcher. As he emerges from a child-like state, afraid of light and sounds, and educates himself in the English language thanks to the diary that Dr Frankenstein has left behind, his loneliness feels painful. All he wants is to have friends and be loved by someone, but no one seems to be able to see beyond his looks. This leads him to frustration and gives him a will to destroy. In the opening scenes, he speaks directly to us, craving communication. He even listens to audience members giving him tips on words. There was a strong connection here, and Fletcher was always pulling us in.
Lennon supported him very well, for example by producing animal sounds and carrying lights representing people. Her expression’s intensity never faltered even when she was in the background. What distracted me was her boots’ squeakiness, especially at the end when she is moving around and the Creature is calling for his Creator in an intense final section.
The lighting and stage design was simple but intriguing and worked very well:
The stage was bare, only containing the essentials: a mirror, a jacket, and a large black box on wheels that contained extra props.
This production is fast-paced and exciting and really makes us feel for the creature. However, the end seemed a little rushed for me. The Creature’s calling out for his “Father”, meaning the Doctor, was a part that could have had a few more beats in between lines, as it is a shocking psychological revelation of how he feels about the Doctor.
I highly enjoyed this fast-paced and intimate show that brings us face to face with the purity of human nature and how it can be hurt and corrupted.
Review by Sophie Tergeist