Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, adapted for the stage by John Ginman
A Blackeyed Theatre production
Greenwich Theatre until 11 February
2 hours, including interval.
Review: Tom Aitken 7 February
Humanity and morality centre-stage
For most people, probably, Frankenstein will be thought of, rather vaguely, as a horror story with a monster called Frankenstein in it. Both of these vague memories are inaccurate or partially so. Equally, most people will remember the names as the title, or part of the title of a film they saw once and, depending upon which of the many films there have been they saw, that the principle motive of what they watched was to make them jump and scream.
There is some truth in all this pigeonholing, but the story also raises questions about humanity and morality, not least whether or not it is sensible and morally permissible to try to reproduce humanity by any other method than those practised by the birds and the bees.
These aspects of the story are central to Ginman’s adaptation. During their vacation from the University of Geneva some students of philosophy are on a boat within the Arctic Circle. As students do – good ones, anyway – they discuss what they are there to achieve. Out of these discussions emerges Victor (an interesting, possibly ironic choice of Christian name) Frankenstein’s decision to test his ability to impart life to inanimate matter.
Wondrously, he constructs a man of great stature and intelligence who, however, obviously constitutes some sort of threat to those in his vicinity.
In Mary Shelley’s imagination, however, this figure is not in all respects monstrous. Although disaster does quite quickly come to pass, our sympathies are cloven, partly attached to the victim but also to the monster himself.
This ‘monster’ is a wonderful life-sized puppet, voiced and moved around the stage by Louis Labovitch. I found myself assuring myself that, yes, this was a puppet, not a person, even through Labovitch was manipulating the puppet’s mouth so precisely (as well as moving it around the stage) that it was almost impossible to believe that the man (often hidden behind him) was the one doing the actual talking.
All this results in an evening in the theatre that makes you laugh frequently but grabs at your emotions by presenting events, that you know are
impossible, in such away as to make you consider not their impossibility but, more importantly and interestingly, what these flights of imagination have to tell us about human existence and experience.
Thank you Blackeyed Theatre!
Victor Frankenstein: Ben Warwick
Elizabeth Lavenza: Lara Cowin
Henry Clerval: Max Gallagher
Robert Walton: Ashley-Sean-Cook
Voice of the Creature: Louis Labovitch
Additional characters played by the ensemble.
Director: Eliot Giuralarocca
Composer: Ron McAllister
Musical Director: Ellie Verkerk
Puppets and Puppetry: Yvonne Stone
Designer: Victoria Spearing
Lighting: Charlotte McClelland
Costumes: Anne Thompson