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Friday, 18 March 2011


Last night The National Theatre broadcast live their sell-out production of FRANKENSTEIN to Picturehouse Cinemas across the country. Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller (alternating nightly the lead roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature).

This was a remarkable production. Technically and thematically.

A striking and complex set consisting of a circular oscillating and rising stage was sparsely dressed, but helped create a stark mood and aesthetic. The lighting rig compressed of thousands of individual light bulbs, that not only created the illusion of the electricity that brings The Creature to life, but also work's as spectacle in its own right.

The chilling and menacing industrial score and sound effects (courtesy of Underworld) also create a specific mood, which propels this classic novel into a more contemporary arena.

But where this production ultimately succeeds is with the acting and script. Written by Nick Dear, the script is rich and (like the Mary Shelley's novel) is full of suggestions and thoughts on big time issues such as morality, technology, sexuality, parenthood, and ultimately what it is to be alive and the responsibilities that this entails.

These ideas are brought forward by remarkable performances from Benendict Cumberbatch (in this performance as The Creature) who not only performed the role with incredible physicality (the opening 10mins is without dialogue as the creature comes to life and learns how to use his 'body' stumbling and struggling as he learns to move with cohesion). But late, the heavy amount of dialogue that this Creature has is unprecedented. Cumberbatch delivers the lines on a technical level stammering and stuttering (if Colin Firth can win awards for mere mild stammer, then this performance is worthy of so much more acclaim) all the way through whilst keeping a genuine 'human' emotional tone to his passionate character. The Creature, is capable of incredible good, kindness, compassion reason and profound logic. However, as he becomes more aware, evil seeps in (the darker moments of this production are really dark, blackmail, perversion, murder and rape are prevalent.)

Jonny Lee Miller portrays the work obsessed Victor Frankenstein who's character (in comparison) is somewhat soulless and two diminutional, yet full of passion for his own obsessions (one of the key points to the original story), yet Miller performs this with just as much (restrained) intensity as his opposing lead.

By the end of the play however, the characters ultimately merge into one. Both Victor Frankenstein and The Creature are inextricably bound to each other, and by the last scene the audience can see how both actors can play either role.

This concept of alternating leads for this production is inspired. Bringing a different approach and very natural and logical progression to the well known and considered ideas and themes that the original text implies.


There will be an encore performance screened at Picturehouse Cinema this Thursday 24th March. Hopefully more screenings will become available, as demand to see this incredible production is ridiculously high.


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