EFR - Reviews of Frankenstein, a new play

Frankenstein, a new play

Sun 14th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Charlotte Thomas

at 18:43 on 15th Aug 2016

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I wish with all my heart that I could find something substantial to praise about this production of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ – the cast clearly have a lot of energy and passion, however lack of performance ability and a childish, amateur script render this production very unimpressive.

Walking into the theatre, I was met with a stark, black stage with no set or props. I therefore hoped that a decision had been made to put emphasis solely on the actors through costume. However, these are equally drab. A particular failure in this respect is in the dressing of Frankenstein’s Creature. I can understand the intention to keep it invisible, one of the most effective techniques of creating suspense and horror being leaving things to people’s imagination. However, parts of the Creature are visible under his cape which completely ruin this effect – namely his grey socks and huge beard.

The actors themselves are enthusiastic, clearly wanting to bring a lot of energy to their respective roles, however this falls flat thanks to the pervading problems in the execution. I have to say that there is little to no chemistry between the cast members. This, in turn, means that lines lack depth, and the entire play feels as if everyone (both small audience and actors alike) are just waiting for it to end. I would urge all actors save the Creature to slow down, really think about what their character’s intentions are behind each line and hopefully this will lend some authenticity to their performances. Additionally, I believe it would benefit the play as a whole if blocking and gesturing were re-addressed. There are points when actors move across the stage with no visible motive for doing so, proceeding to deliver the exact same narrative in the exact same way as it had been in their previous position.

Tech is used in the most infuriating way I have ever experienced -both as a performer and an audience member. Most of the play is performed in near darkness – far from being atmospheric and moody, it just leaves me unable to see what is going on. When there is a spotlight, the actors never find it before the start of the scene, leaving them having to perform an awkward shuffle to get there.

Finally, I must mention the script. Although the problems with acting may run deeper than this, the script itself is nothing short of shocking. Dull, repetitive and unintelligent, I am very disappointed that this re-telling has not delivered any of the intrigue and horror of the original.

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Thomas Jordan

at 22:06 on 15th Aug 2016

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If Mary Shelley’s 'Frankenstein' is a horror novel, then Oliver Schröder’s retelling is a horror show. It is not often that a reviewer must concede that a performance has no redeeming features, but regrettably this piece meets that rare criterion for a one star review. Were this an experimental, student performance in the Free Fringe, there might be a tiny bit of room for sympathy. But for ten pounds, from an established theatre company, the experience is laughable.

From the outset, the script is flawed in two obvious ways. First, it is made up almost entirely of recounting complicated stories from the past. This comes across simply as immature writing, with the plot being clunkily explained by characters beginning sentences with ‘Oh, so that means that…’ as they make connections between recounted events. At the very least this means the audience is reasonably clued up on the storyline: the angry return of Frankenstein’s creature, who wants his creator to feel the pain and loneliness that he has felt for his whole life. It is a mystery as to how this new version provides a significant twist or reinterpretation of the original. Second, the dialogue is painfully unimaginative. The first reunion of Frankenstein and his creature could be a thrilling moment of opposition, but instead we get a conversation that sounds like a knock-off Star Wars: ‘I’m not afraid of you.’ ‘You should be.’

Whilst there are fatal failings in the play itself, the production and performance fall to a level only comparable with a disappointing school play. Mistimed entries, clearly misspoken lines and a comical tendency for either enormous overreaction or inexplicable under-reaction, the acting sadly appears unrehearsed and lacking in any subtly or nuance. In terms of production, the decision to dress the creature in a cape and pointy hood (with long ginger beard and boyish socks on view) is confusing at best. Perhaps the best indicator of the competence of the professionalism of the show comes right at the end of the final scene. With the lights down and a character (no spoilers!) lying dead on the floor, Frankenstein scuttles back on stage and pokes them, audibly whispering, ‘Get up!’ The lights come up and the entire cast then proceeds to bow and receive some muted applause, looking oddly pleased with themselves. Meanwhile, the audience looks back in shock as to why an actor would need reminding that their play had ended.

In all, this adaption is simply a bizarre show to watch. Poorly written and poorly performed, it is difficult to understand how a group of grown-adults are not more self-aware of the level of what they are producing. One can only hope they enjoy it.

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