DTR - Reviews of Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Fri 7th – Sun 9th March 2014

reviews

Francis Mullaly

at 01:54 on 8th Mar 2014

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Staging an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Romantically-infused Gothic novel, Frankenstein (1818), would be an ambitious feat for any student theatre company. However, presented in the beautiful setting of Castle’s Great Hall, this was an exhilarating theatrical spectacle.

Upon initially arriving, we were met with a minimalist setting with a stage located in the centre with seats at all four sides. I was initially sceptical as this would obviously result in many issues to encounter for the actors in not compensating the audiences’ view. Apart from some impaired views when characters were sitting down, I was pleasantly surprised. The actors were generally excellent at using the whole stage, which endeavoured to provide equal treatment to all sides – their abrupt turns almost provided an additional dimension of suspense and tension as we were seated so close in an intimate setting. The subtle lighting, the sparse use of props and the sparing use of a haunting soundtrack to accompany was most effective and focussed our attention on the actors.

There were two characters that completely stole the show – Victor Frankenstein (played by Hugh Train) and the Creature (played by Natasha Yadav). From the outset, where a wretched Frankenstein hobbles onto the stage to recount his version of events to Captain Robert Walton, I was completely convinced. Frankenstein’s opening expository monologue was simply exquisite and well-articulated throughout, whether as an actor or narrator. Throughout the ongoing discourse, there was a true sense of developing characterisation as Frankenstein questions the consequences that would stem from the accumulating evil provided in the first creature by creating a second in exchange for further scientific gain. This almost schizophrenic trauma that was plaguing Frankenstein was fascinating to watch.

From the first glimpse of the corpse brought onto stage, its centrality was effective as Frankenstein continues to circle it. The creature’s animalistic qualities were portrayed well with excellent make up. Although I was initially underwhelmed, I thought that she truly came out of her shell. Her individual scene that showed the creature’s gradual exposure to her senses was so powerful and simply a delight to watch, accompanied by the intermittent soundtrack. I almost felt genuine empathy as she was treated cruelly by civilisation and started to question the reasons surrounding her existence, culminating in her pleading with Frankenstein for companionship in spite of her inherent wickedness.

In terms of the subordinate characters, that were all strong with some effective dual casting, I felt that Elizabeth (Frankenstein’s wife, played by Pippa Mosley) was the strongest. Her beautiful dress (and the same for Frankenstein’s mother, Eva) matched her monologues that were full of expression. I felt that the chemistry and budding romance between Frankenstein and Elizabeth could have been explored further but her death was a poignant moment in the play.

The drama’s conclusion was arguably the strongest, where Frankenstein’s quest for revenge is ultimately fruitless when he dies in the creature’s arms, thus causing further questioning at the creature’s existence as she has no purpose in life without company.

In summary, the Castle Theatre Company’s production team should be proud of their achievements in adapting such a Gothic novel to create such a captivating performance. Monologues were delivered with conviction and, for a relatively small cast, they presented an existential crisis through a convincing flashback. In spite of the distracting music outside, this deserved a bigger audience and I'm sure that increasing characterisation and chemistry will develop as the show progresses. In short, I was impressed and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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Georgina Glen

at 10:23 on 8th Mar 2014

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Castle Theatre Company presents ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley in Castle’s Great Hall 7th, 8th & 9th March.

What better place to re-enact Mary Shelley’s grisly tale of Dr Frankenstein and his monster than the Great Hall of Castle. Taking full advantage of the Gothic surroundings, the audience is met on arrival with a startling contrast between the suits of armour and the almost clinically-bare stage. Set in the round, the stage is exposed beneath dazzling lights projected from all four corners, conjuring an image of an eagerly-awaiting operating table ready to expel its sinister story. The setting as a whole was visually brilliant, but the acoustics proved difficult to mediate for some of the actors as they negotiated 360’ deliverance. I also have to admit that the music from Castle bar spinning out Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ during the final death scene fried my brain just a bit.

The play was slick with superb performances from a clearly talented cast, led by a visually driven and competent director. With entrances from all angles, the play flows gracefully through the respective narratives of Dr Frankenstein and the creature in which he had inflicted life. The juxtaposition of soothing classical piano to accompany scenes of violence was particularly evocative.

The first scene lacked a sense of urgency which downplayed what could have been a very dramatic opening sequence. Thankfully, Dr Frankenstein’s arrival and the polished transition from action to retrospect lifted and set the pace for the rest of the play.

The stand-out performance of the night was from Hugh Train as Victor Frankenstein. His flawless delivery of such a complex character was mesmerising and managed to instil the audience with both equal measures of sympathy and disgust. Capturing every moment in an impressive physical performance, Train wonderfully portrayed the character’s hubris and inevitable descent into remorse and grief-driven madness.

Similarly mesmerising was the extraordinarily brave performance from Natasha Yadav as the creature. With the simple but effective use of prosthetics, hunched posture, clawing hands and a speech impediment a creature was born. For the most part she was a pleasure to watch on stage, however, a little more volume and aggression in her violent scenes would have made them slightly more believable. That being said, the brief scene where the creature plays amongst some autumn leaves was a particularly striking image and was acted magnificently. Her relationship with Dr Frankenstein was developed well, and a lovely scene between the creature and a blind woman (Georgia Cassarino) was very moving.

Overall the cast was strong: Pippa Mosley as Elizabeth was especially natural on stage and certainly had the most convincing death scene. However, her relationship with Dr Frankenstein lacked a little warmth on his part which undermined the grief and regret instigated by her murder. Carrie Gaunt looked and sounded the part of Madame Frankenstein but her performance was not quite cohesive with the portrayal of a mother having just lost her daughter. The multi-roles, however, were well developed and aided by some beautiful costumes.

Director David Knowles has done a majestic job of conveying the rich themes of this Gothic drama. In a genre that is notoriously difficult to navigate the fine line between chilling and cheesy, cast and director have produced a subtle and deeply moving play which is well worth the £5.50 ticket.

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