Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been adapted for the stage by Rona Munro and it is currently showing at Derby Theatre. I attended Press Night last night, here is my review.
Frankenstein was published in 1816, and has seen hundreds of adaptations both for television, novels and the stage. Yet it is this production that is the first to place Mary Shelley centre-stage recreating her as the worthy heroine of the story. Placing her as the main narrator gives the production an uncanny voyeuristic element which works extremely well in this supernatural context.
It is a refreshing set-up and one that I have not seen anywhere else. We meet Mary Shelley (Eilidh Loan) in the first scene, battling with her memory in trying to recall her nightmare from the previous night. This scene undoubtedly strikes a chord with writers and fellow creatives fighting writer’s block, and Eilidh wonderfully captures the essence of a struggling writer super keen to write her novel.
We see the play from three main view-points; Mary Shelley as frustrated author struggling to fine-tune her work, Victor Frankenstein as the unparalleled genius whose brilliance is tempered by conceit, and the terrifying Monster who is repelled and repressed throughout its short, lonely existence.
Frankenstein appears every inch the intellectual destined for great things. Yet his boundary-pushing work and eventual descent into madness is a damning indictment of the human condition, portrayed with ease by Castle-Gibb.
The Monster evokes revulsion, terror, and empathy. It craves only one thing which paradoxically makes him all the more human – and that is love. As a viewer, I was torn between understanding his plight and wanting to see the terror end. Michael Moreland’s Monster is that rare creature who makes you simultaneously want to befriend him and also slam the door in his face.
Rona breathes new life into a classic tale, leaving you quite literally breathless, as you recover from one shock to the next. Note: this adaptation has teeny tiny shock value and is therefore great for kids of all ages – I personally get jumpy by the atmospheric music on Poirot, so it really doesn’t take much to scare me (I enjoyed every minute).
This sensationalist production deftly portrays serious themes whilst eliciting numerous chuckles from the audience. This is down to Rona’s expert direction and Eilidh Loan’s representation of Mary Shelley, who with a nudge and a cheeky wink, keeps the viewer onside.
All actors deserve an award for being limber as they glide up and down the stage using tree-like climbing frames at either end of the stage. A hat-tip goes to composer Simon Slater, whose rousing pieces add to the drama, whilst Grant Anderson as lighting designer brings the wow factor to the lightning and pyrotechnic-esqe displays.
It is remarkable for a story published over 200 years’ ago is still relevant today, and this is indicative of Shelley’s genius and how ahead of her time she was. Her story does more than scare the bejesus out of you. Its core themes of challenging religion, alienation, xenophobia and extreme scientific enquiry play out with aplomb and still resonate with the audience today.
For an adrenaline spike and a great way to spend a wintry evening, go to Derby Theatre now.
Frankenstein is now showing till Saturday 25 January 2020.
For more information and to make a booking, please visit their website now.