Reviewed by Deborah Mackenzie
Frankenstein must be 0one of the most known Gothic horror stories; as Rona Munro mentions in her foreword; “there are two views of ‘Frankenstein’, an early gothic novel that has been analysed as literature and a Boris Karloff fright night, that has been reinvented with a hundred different stitched on faces, chased by Scooby Doo, moulded as a Halloween mask – a horror blockbuster that still delivers”. But Munro wanted to do something a little different; and that she did!
Instead of just performing the story of Frankenstein, Munro takes Mary Shelley – the author of Frankenstein – and makes her centre stage, narrating the story as if she is giving birth to the story as it is acted out. Eilidh Loan as Mary comes across as half crazed, manically rushing around the stage, pen in hand, scribbling as the story unfolds. Loan is striking, strong and unwavering in her performance as she unfolds the story as it is acted. Often, she has sassy quips bringing a lightness to the darkness of the story. She promises a real horror story, but Director Patricia Benecke never quite gets the tension up enough to move the audience. The hanging is mimed, the murder takes place in silhouette and the monster is a bit too human. His plea for love and respect makes us feel sorrier for him than something to fear.
Becky Minto’s stunning scenery is stark, giving the impression of a blank canvas. A predominantly white double height set of platforms, bookcases and trees offered everything from an arctic ship, laboratory and library. It was complimented by the monochrome costumes, apart from the slash of blood-red shirt worn by Mary. The scene with its angular walls, doors and leafless trees were enhanced by the strong bright white light, rising smoke and many lightening flashes by Grant Anderson. These were all brought together with Simon Slater’s composition and sound design that at times had you jumping in your seats.
Ben Castle Gibb as Frankenstein, the deranged obsessive scientist who reacts to the death of his mother by the desire to discover the secret of life. Ben’s performance is captivating, and you can almost feel his urgency as he goes through each stage of his experiments until he finally creates his monster. Success does not bring joy, but torment, depression and utter loneliness as the monster rips his life apart. The monster, (Michael Moreland) although his performance was faultless, he came across at time pitiful, almost whining at times that he had been abandoned by his creator. That all he wanted was to be loved. Sadly, for me he was never something of one’s nightmare, even with Mary stating it was too horrible to look at.
The show is interesting rather than the horror we are promised by Mary; at times a little flat and in some places, we are left questioning what is happening. The scene when the monster meets the blind man, could have been extremely powerful but it was rushed and seemed irrelevant. However, the sheer genius of the way the show was portrayed from Mary’s creation of the story makes it worth seeing.
Tickets cost from £13 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Frankenstein is at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow from 25-30 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/theatre-royal-glasgow or call the box office on 0844 871 7647.
Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 3QA | 0844 871 7647