Monday, 2 March 2020

REVIEW: The Creature at the Rose Theatre Kingston


The image of Frankenstein's monster was defined by Boris Karloff's 1931 performance as the monster but recent stage productions have tried to reinvent the story and image. The tour of Frankenstein in late 2019 adapted by Rona Munro had the original author Mary Shelley on stage narrating the story but stuck closely to the original book. Ciaran McConville takes a very different approach using the original plot of Shelley's book, as a starting point to create a very modern prometheus and then the alumni of the Rose Youth theatre, all around the age Shelley was when she wrote the original, stage this fresh version for a short run at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

The story is transposed to a modern setting in modern costume with a quirky ethereal feel with only the setting of the ship's cabin where Frankenstein meets Captain Ralf Wile (Francis Reffern) 300 miles from the coast in an ice flow has a sense of period. McConville cleverly retains the essence and structure of the original story while he weaves in many modern themes with references to Alzheimer's, Parkinson disease, Kurdish mercenaries, pestilence, refugees in Europe, terrorism, loneliness, grief, suicide and computers. The video of humanities horrors committed on others provides a strong underpinning of the underlying themes in the book. It makes for an fresh take on the story with a wonderful twist towards the end that though hinted at along the way provides an intriguing conclusion. 

Eleanor Clark plays The Creator (Frankenstein) and Anna Pryce plays The Creature and they are dressed to look the same in black jeans, green v neck tops and orange parka jackets. It looks like she has created the monster in her image but the simple costume adds to the mystery in the story. Only Elizabeth (Daisy Tucker) as Frankenstein's love interest keeps the same name as in the original story but again their relationship gives the show an updated look. 

The other characters are played by an ensemble of five who also act as a chorus in masks narrating between scenes. Indeed a lot of the speeches are narrative exposition reflecting the epistolary nature of the original book. Jerky movements signal a change of location or time as the backstory of the Creature's creation is revealed. Lucy Morrell directs the young actors to create a fluid production and gives them each a chance to shine. Lighting designed by David Starmer is very effective in defining the spaces and enhancing these movements and performances. 

This is a very successful new adaption of the original book, well performed by the young cast and providing a thought provoking challenge to the audience while staying true to the extraordinary book. 

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★ 

Seat: Stalls, Row F | Price of Ticket: £18
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