Oct 22 2019 | By More

★★☆☆☆    Not chilling

King’s Theatre: Mon 21 – Sat 26 Oct 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Confused in its execution, Selladoor’s touring version of Frankenstein has high production values but offers little in the way of pre-Hallowe’en excitement.

The story – the scientist who seeks power over death, and ends up giving life to a creature of less-than-divine appearance, who disappoints its creator and is misunderstood by the world in general – is of course well known and often adapted.

Eilidgh Loan. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

Rona Munro’s new version, presented by Selladoor in collaboration with Perth Theatre, the Belgrade Coventry and Matthew Townshend Productions, stands out by putting the novel’s teenage creator Mary Shelley front and centre. It is she, rather than the Doctor or the Creature, who is the central figure here, with the scares coming from the workings of a patriarchal society that ignores the demands of its weaker members.

This is an excellent idea for a version of Frankenstein – unfortunately, it fails to work in practice. Instead, what ensues is a faithful if somewhat rushed retelling of the story, with its writer constantly commenting on it.

The character repeats or anticipates dialogue in order both to emphasise and undermine, repeatedly and needlessly points out the themes and stresses her own cleverness, even to the point of declaring early on ‘that’s a proper deathbed scene – you’re welcome’. As a depiction of the process of artistic creation, it is heavy-handed to say the least.

unsurprisingly vibrant

Eilidh Loan’s Mary is very well done, with a combination of political fury, ingenuity and teenage impetuosity, but the whole concept sits oddly. Munro’s dialogue for the character is unsurprisingly vibrant, and a whole play about her would work. Here, she is underdeveloped and appears as an intruder in her own creation, which also suffers as a result, ending up as singularly unGothic and entirely lacking in horror,

Ben Castle Gibb. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

Becky Minto’s enclosed set and Simon Slater’s crunchy sound design add atmosphere, but Patricia Benecke’s direction is oddly bloodless, with Ben Castle Gibb’s Frankenstein strangely lacking in passion. Natali McCleary, as his fiancee Elizabeth, does better in suggesting hidden reserves, but it is clear that Munro does not know quite what to make of what is – to modern eyes – such a weirdly subservient character.

Michael Moreland’s Monster is less otherworldly and gruesome than most versions of the Creature, and is played with great empathy. In one sense, this makes his treatment and subsequent actions more realistic; however, these gains are offset by a considerable loss of impact and potential terror.

The other cast members – Thierry Mabonga, Sarah MacGillivray and the estimable Greg Powrie – discharge their roles diligently, but the absence of urgency leads to a general lack of direction.

Strangest of all is how untroubling it all is. Several times, Mary informs us how what we are seeing is horrifying. We, however, will be the judges of that – and instead it is merely baffling.

Running time 1 hour 55 minutes including one interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven St, EH3 9LQ
Monday 21 – Saturday 26 October 2019
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here

Frankenstein on tour:
21 – 26 October Edinburgh
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
28 October – 2 November Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online
4 – 9 November Guildford
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
01483 44 00 00 Book online
11 – 16 November Liverpool
0151 709 4776 Book online
18 – 23 November Richmond
0844 871 7651 Book online
25 – 30 November Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647 Book online
Frankenstein tour continues in 2020:
13 – 18 Jan, 2020 Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892277 Book online
20 – 25 Jan, 2020 Derby
Derby Theatre
01332 59 39 39 Book online
27 Jan – 1 Feb, 2020 Mold
Theatre Clwyd
01352 701521 Book online
4 – 8 Feb, 2020 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
10 – 15 Feb, 2020 Huddersfield
Lawrence Batley Theatre
01484 430 528 Book online
18 – 22 Feb, 2020 Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234234 Book online
24 – 29 Feb, 2020 Manchester
Middleton Arena
0300 303 8633 Book online
2 – 7 Mar, 2020 Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627 Book online

The cast of Frankenstein. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan


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Comments (1)

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  1. "Misty Blue" says:

    I saw this last week with my friend at the Middleton Arena and sorry to say that we were both very disappointed to say the least.
    I agree with what Hugh Simpson said (above) and throughout the whole 2 hours we were actually bored. We kept hoping that it would get better in the second half, but it didn’t. The character of Mary was quite distracting when you were trying to listen to the rest of the cast.
    I’ve seen some of the other reviews and everyone seemed to really enjoy it and I began to wonder if we had been watching the same play! I was expecting the “monster” to be more frightening and also expecting to see the bolt through his neck! It was 2 hours that we will never get back. Luckily we had free tickets, but would have been very upset if we had had to pay over £50 to watch that.