As Victor Frankenstein battle with his creation, Mary Shelley is battling with the creation of the novel…
In her notes in the programme, Rona Munro (who has adapted the book for this stage production) talks about Mary Shelley and how she tried to write the best book she could, one that, as the notes say ‘…arguably created the whole genres of horror and science fiction.’ However, also in the notes, Munro talks about how Shelley in doing so, also put in her own beliefs and not those of those around her, her friends and husband.
What Munro does in this adaptation is two things. The first, is the adaptation of the novel itself. The second is inject Mary Shelley into the story, contrasting her struggles in dealing with the nightmare that birthed the novel and her writing, or creating if you will, of it.
The first half of the play tells Victor’s story up until his confrontation with the creation, or monster, in the mountains. The second half gives us more of the creation’s story, as it tries to convince Victor to create a mate for it and the horrible vengeance it brings when he does not. The small band of actors bring to life the characters very well indeed, often playing multiple roles.
But through both part of the play, strides Mary Shelley. Struggling at the beginning as she sets up her story, through to her observations as she writes it, with her own nightmare lingering in the background, her own monster, one that she begins to understand as the story goes on.
Eilidh Loan plays Mary and she is very good indeed, bringing to life someone who is struggling with aspects of her tale, but also, in scenes directed to the audience, almost playful as she toys with their expectations, including possibly giving Frankenstein a happier ending.
Ben Castle Gibb plays Victor Frankenstein and he too is also very good, bringing his obsession to life well as he is torn between what he has done and the life he wants with Elizabeth. Michael Moreland plays the monster and again is good. The scenes between creator and creation are riveting. The small cast is rounded out by Thierry Mabonga, Natali Mccleary, Sarah Macgillivary and Greg Powrie. The play multiple roles and play them very well.
As well as telling the story well, Rona Munro’s script touches on how women were thought of at the time and also on themes that still resonate to this day, something Shelley’s novel also did.
The play is well directed by Patricia Benecke. Although Frankenstein is as much a science fiction story as horror, it is, I would say, considered more a horror one these days, certainly since the classic film version with Boris Karloff from 1931. To that end, I think Benecke does manage to create some chilling moments as the monster goes on its rampage.
The end of the play I thought was a nice touch, as it acknowledges how the story of Frankenstein is still lives on to this day, outliving Mary Shelley in film TV, books and of course the play.
As someone who doesn’t go to the theatre often, I really enjoyed this adaptation. While it flew by time wise, you are enthralled by the performances and the story. The set design by Becky Minto is good and the sound design and music from Simon Slater is unsettling in its own way at times.
This adaptation of Frankenstein is on at Perth Theatre until September 21st, as it begins a UK tour. If you can, I highly recommend going to see it.
It’s very good indeed.
Rating: **** out of 5