Sunday, 30 November 2014

Frankenstein and the Theatre

So this weekend I got to see something incredible:

Frankenstein, an incredible performance
This was a play originally performed live at the National Theatre, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. When it was performed, they also filmed it and broadcast it into cinema's around the country so that other people could get to experience it from afar. This year they decided to re-air it in the cinema's, allowing those of us who missed it to see it.

Now, I adore the theatre. It was always my dream to work in a theatre, to be a theatre actor and experience the madness and sheer exhilaration of performing each and every night. Sadly my talents in this field are somewhat lacking, but my love of the theatre has never lessened. So to get to see these two great actors at work was really something.

The play had an interesting twist - the two main actors swapped roles each night, one time playing Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and the next playing the monster he created. This emphasised the idea of creation and humanity and such (according to the director).

Swapping roles each night, giving two brilliant interpretations of the same play
I was lucky enough to see both versions of the play, and both were just incredible. The two men portrayed both characters differently to one another, despite going through the same motions and having the same lines. Lots of people say they have a 'favourite' cast for the play, but I have to say it is hard to choose which I prefer.
BC's portrayal of the creature really showed his innocence and sheer joy at seeing the world for the first time, of experiencing sunlight and rain, and the feeling of grass on his skin, and the vulnerability he had when he first came to life and learned to walk. As the play moved on, you really felt the sense of sheer betrayal felt by the creature, which I found less so from JLM's portrayal. JLM on the other hand showed the creatures anger and burning rage barely kept under control as the play progressed, his voice stronger and body language harsher from the start. They both showed different sides to the creature, but both of them made you love him, sympathise with him, and feel an immense loss for the person he could have been had people not been so harsh.
JLM portrayed the doctor's progression as a slow decent into madness, which I loved. The doctors sheer exhaustion yet sheer determination at the end was just incredible. BC on the other hand really made the characters obsession and drive for science shine through, though showed less of the characters slow but sure destruction than JLM.

So you see, it's very hard to say which I prefer. In a way I would say I prefer cast A, with BC as the creature and JLM as the doctor. I think that is because that was the first performance I saw, and so the second was always being compared. Both were just incredible though, and I am so glad I saw them.

A quick word on the staging - incredible. Ok, I know I have said that a lot, but seriously it was. They had a huge display of lightbulbs that lit up and flashed at times throughout the performance, showing the flashes of electricity that brings the creature to life, as well as the strangeness of it all and those flashes of inspiration that came to Victor Frankenstein throughout the story. They also had a rotating centre, allowing for different staging to appear, and a set of tracks (like a railway) which were used to great effect (especially when a fully steampunked up train and crew came roaring on stage). Also that make-up for the creature: just wow.

If any of you ever get the chance to see it then do so. They aren't releasing a DVD of it, which is sad but a decision made by the performance team and one I respect. It would loose something I think.
Here is the trailer they released, so you can have a flavour:

As a final note, if anyone ever wants to see anything in the theatre, please give me a shout. I want to see more things at the theatre, as I always have and always will love the magic. 

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