by Mary Shelley adapted by Nick Dear.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX in rep to 2 May 2011.
7.30pm 28 Feb, 1-5, 10-12, 14-16 March, 8, 9, 12-16, 19-21, 23, 25-30 April.
2pm 2, 5, 12 March, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 27, 30 April, 2 May.
3pm 10, 17 April.
Audio-described 15 April, 16 April 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm), 20 April 2pm (+ Touch Tour 12.30pm).
Captioned 13, 28 April.
Runs 2hr No interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/tickets (Sold Out – Day Seats only).
Review: Carole Woddis 23, 25 February.
Electric performances in sometimes low voltage production.
Alternating casts between two actors is not new. Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Bolingbroke have previously lent themselves to this experiment. But I suspect it will be some time before another pairing achieve quite the acclaim Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller are deservedly now receiving as the Creature and Victor Frankenstein.
Director Danny Boyle and writer Nick Dear’s idea of showing Mary Shelley’s `creature’ as the symbiotic, inter-co-dependant of its creator is a theatrical triumph, nowhere more so than in the final climactic moments where the Creature becomes a metaphor for science’s holy grail – the ever elusive future. In this particular context, it is also about the pair’s mutual destruction; they cannot live without each other but do so in mutual hatred and love.
Despite a final, amazing vision Boyle’s production is not without its flaws. Brilliance of concept – Mark Tildesley’s stunning cascade of electric light bulbs; Underworld’s haunting sound score, at once bombastically threatening, at another joyously `new day’ dawning – can’t disguise some surprisingly awful patches.
Yet even these cannot dent the impact of Boyle’s wonderfully visceral production, which in its first fifteen minutes – the birth of the Creature – reaches new touchstones of rawness and eloquence concerning human life and existence.
Dear’s adaptation keeps philosophical debate to a minimum though the exchanges between creator and creature, particularly about Love, have their resonances. Befitting our times, this Frankenstein contains a light vein of ironic humour beside the sympathy conjured up in the portrait of the Creature, as compassionate a statement about human difference as you’re ever likely to find.
As for the performances, Cumberbatch’s Creature is extraordinary – a being of intense febrile vulnerability. Miller’s carries a strange allure. There are good supporting performances too from Karl Johnson as a blind man from whom the Creature learns Milton and Plutarch and from Naomie Harris as Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s loving, unfortunate wife.
Unforgettable as the production is, it sends you spinning back to Shelley’s original in awe at her imaginative articulation of the enduringly monstrous in Man. Namely, his insatiable ego and hunger for power.
The Creature: Benedict Cumberbatch/Jonny Lee Miller.
Victor Frankenstein: Jonny Lee Miller/Benedict Cumberbatch.
Gretel/Clarice: Ella Smith.
Gustav/Constable: John Killoran.
Klaus, Steven Elliott.
Agatha de Lacey: Lizzie Winkler.
De Lacey: Karl Johnson.
Felix de Lacey: Daniel Millar.
Elizabeth Lavenza: Naomie Harris.
William Frankenstein: Haydon Downing/William Nye/Jared Richard.
M. Frankenstein: George Harris.
Servants of the Frankenstein household: Daniel Ings, Martin Chamberlain
Rab: Mark Armstrong.
Ewan: John Stahl.
Female Creature: Andreea Padurariu.
Ensemble: Josie Daxter.
Director: Danny Boyle.
Designer: Mark Tildesley.
Costume: Suttirat Anne Larlarb.
Lighting: Bruno Poet.
Movement Director: Toby Sedgwick.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Music associate: Alex Baranowski.
’National Theatre Live’ screenings in cinemas across the country 17, 24 March.
World premiere of Frankensteinat the Olivier Theatre London on 22,23 February 2011.