Frankenstein

This production of Frankenstein, is a joint production between Leeds Playhouse and the Imitating the Dog Theatre Company, and starts its national tour this week at the Oxford Playhouse.

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (first published in 1818) is here adapted and given a modern twist. The play is a two hander, featuring Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia as both the modern day (unnamed) Woman and Man, who also travelled between their own modern-day story, and also recreating the story of Robert Walton and Victor Frankenstein, and the horror/tragedy of that tale.

I had never read the novel. I’m not even sure I’ve watched a Frankenstein film all the way through, but I know enough about the story to know the themes – human cruelty, the boundaries between life and death, the responsibility of the creator of life and what does it mean to be human?

When the novel was first published, Mary Shelley was just 19 years old. The way that this adaptation works, puts the original author’s young age in stark context. The Woman in this modern-day story is in the early stages of pregnancy. You get the impression that the Man is not long in a relationship with her, and at the start of the play they are somewhat shell-shocked by the prospect of becoming parents. As the play develops, he becomes more positive than she is, and towards the end, she is positively dreading becoming a mother, and considering taking steps to end the pregnancy.

This is interspersed with the story of Frankenstein creating and then regretting creating his ‘monster’.

This production starts with power and electricity sparking the stage. Literally. The fusion of powerful acting, dance, physical theatre and technology on stage is really quite something to behold with its cleverness.

The set was minimal, and everything from bed to furniture was grey and sparse. The set doubles as the young couple’s bedroom, and also a cabin on board the ship where Robert Walton hears Victor Frankenstein’s tragic story unfold.

This play cleverly links the anxieties of bringing a baby into the modern world with the couple being frightened by the responsibility. The radio set on stage plays a key part in this, with the play starting with the couple listening to an audio version of the novel, and then switching back and forth between reality and fiction, with a really clever use of lighting and effects.

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia were outstanding. The choreography was truly amazing, at times violent and unnatural. There were moments when their bodies combined to represent the monster, which were incredibly clever. Both had amazing core strength as they contorted into different shapes. There was also a clever use of levels on stage.

I did wonder if the ending was a little rushed, although I am thinking the idea was to keep the audience guessing. The bleakness of the set and staging was striking, and the performances of the two actors were very powerful. This is a visually striking production, that very powerfully asks lots of questions, and keeps the audience thinking about the responsibility of creating life. It is well worth catching on tour.

This show was reviewed on the 29th February 2024 at Oxford Playhouse where it runs until the 2nd March 2024.  Tickets available here: Frankenstein | Oxford Playhouse

Full tour details here: Frankenstein | imitating the dog

Review written by Ruth Hawkins

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Photo credit: Ed Waring

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