Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Review: Frankenstein, National Theatre


“Please do not be inconsistent, I find it infuriating”

Perhaps the first big theatre ‘event’ of the year is the National Theatre’s Frankenstein which has taken the step of cross-casting its two main parts, so on different nights one can see Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. The play is a new work by Nick Dear although based on Mary Shelley’s famous novel and features the National Theatre directorial debut of Danny Boyle, Oscar-winning director of films like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. The programme of who is playing whom has now been published, although the run is currently sold out, but the previews remained unallocated so it was a lucky dip as to who we would get when we went to see it: just to clarify, this is a review of a preview performance from Tuesday 8th February which I have kept in mind whilst blogging about this show.


There’s a highly atmospheric entrance into the Olivier, with a bell tolling and a strange looking pod revolving slowly around the stage. As the lights darkened to a womb-like red, a figure began to emerge from this pod and eventually a completely naked Benedict Cumberbatch broke free to be birthed into this cruel chamber. It is hard to see how this opening 15 or so minutes will be bettered this year, as a physical performance it is truly outstanding as he slowly becomes accustomed to the world through squinting eyes, stuttering sounds and a stumbling gait, controlled through a stunning light feature that hangs above the stage, protruding into the audience that flashes blindingly, radiating an intense heat too, as a highly effective warning device. It is a remarkably open sequence too, not just because he is in the nude, but because he is so free in his movements and the way in which he shows the fast-burgeoning intelligence of the Creature, in his reaction to his first dawn or the rain for instance: he really sets the marker for the rest of the play in creating this empathetic character who one can’t help but root for (the odd murder excepted of course).

 
Such an effective and expressionistic opening would be a hard act to follow at the best of times, but the (metaphorical, as opposed to the literal) warning bells sounded straightaway with the arrival of a bizarre steam-punk-inspired train complete with random singing, the dreaded ‘movement’ and sparks flying everywhere which thankfully disappears as abruptly as it arrives. The introduction of other characters into the narrative is not particularly successfully done here at any point, partly due to the compressed timescale: we rip through months and years in the blink of an eye but it is never quite clear enough. More crucially though, the fast pace means that we have no time to get to know any of the subsidiary characters, whether it is the de Laceys from whom the Creature learns so much, even the tragic young William Frankenstein and the rest of his household, a lot has been sacrificed for the expediency of interval-free pace.


The main stumbling block for me though, and usual caveats about previews aside, was that it does have to be said that this is a generally shockingly bad script at the minute. I don’t think there is a single supporting character afforded any real depth in here by Dear’s writing nor a single scene that is allowed to pass without painfully simplistic explanations therefore dragging out too many scenes to interminable length. In some cases, the quality of actor manages to transcend the material, John Stahl brings a wry Celtic humour to his grave-robber, I quite liked Karl Johnson as the kindly De Lacey and Ella Smith is extremely charismatic with the meagrest of lines as the maid in the Frankenstein’s house. But Naomie Harris is saddled with a deal of (what felt to me like) anachronistic sassiness to many of her lines which didn’t fit well with the character and her own dilemmas, consequently she struggled to form a believable bond with Miller’s Victor. Whereas one feels that this is a fixable issue, George Harris’ M Frankenstein is a woefully inadequate performance at the moment: whether due to extenuating circumstances or misjudged direction, he is so very awkward, incredibly immobile, incongruously accented and extremely difficult to watch.


But even Victor doesn’t escape the weaknesses of the script. He is not presented as much of a character in this play, arriving midway through the show and given little opportunity to develop as he deals with incident after incident. By the time some back-story is given, through a most clumsily executed device, it is too little too late really although Miller gave it his all: as he arrives to see the Creature raping his new wife, he slumps to his knees rather than actually getting in there to stop him, which felt a bit like a metaphor for the show... The duels between these two characters are generally the strongest parts of the show though, the play really does crackle when it is about the pair of them and Cumberbatch and Miller clearly have great chemistry and seem to be relishing the prospect of the run ahead of them.


Against all this is the ingenuity in the set design from Mark Tildesley and a staging which utilises the opportunities offered by the Olivier in the most satisfying way I remember seeing since His Dark Materials. The drum is effectively used, revolving from the moment we enter the auditorium and rising intermittently to reveal a range of well-designed sets moving us from Geneva to Scotland and the North Pole amongst other places, keeping us very much in the 19th century although Boyle’s flair cannot resist the odd modern touch. Underworld’s sound-score is well done but becomes a little insistent at times, sounding too much like, well, Underworld but Bruno Poet’s lighting is excellently done throughout, none more so than with the already mentioned hanging light feature which is inventively used several times in the show.


The heavily teenaged crowd lapped it up and there was a good number of people of all ages giving a standing ovation which I found quite surprising to be honest. Cumberbatch’s performance was indeed electric but so much so that one longed for him to return to the stage in the scenes where he was not present. And no matter how flashy the design or the set, this should not distract from the fundamental weaknesses of this play which are glaring, at the moment. Perhaps it will improve before opening night which is indeed nearly three weeks away, a mightily long preview period; perhaps one really does need to see it both ways round, the added depth of seeing both interpretations making more sense to the production as a whole, I don’t really know. I cannot say that I am inclined to part with any more money to see it again to give you the benefit of both incarnations of this show, though I will be interested to hear what others have to say about it. For me though, this is one ginormous example of style; much classy style at that, let it be said, over substance.

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)
Programme cost: £3
Booking until 17th April at the moment although it is sold out, dates for May will go on sale in early March , according to their website
Note: a fair bit of male nudity (and a little female too) and many a flashing light contained within. Given a 15+ rating by the National themselves.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was interested in your comments as, having seen the production last night (Tuesday) I found myself leaving the theatre with much the same reserveations. I was stunned by Cumberbatch's performance as the monster and it was good to see the development of the creature's humanity and exploration of his plight given the attention it deserves.
However, like you, I felt his absence keenly when not on stage, as the overall quality of the production, AS A PLAY, was weak. To adapt a novel for perfoermance is a challenge, but a far greater awareness of the demands of the stage and better scriptwriting are needed here. Too many of the secondary characters wwre wooden, delivering cliched lines with little conviction; the quality of the central perfoemance only served to highlight the deficiencies elsewhere.
Credit must go, as you say, to the dazzling sets, which enabled the National to do what it does best, but at times, these seemed to be substitutes for good, old-fashioned scripting.

Webby said...

HOORAY. Someone else who agrees with my view of this as the emperor's new clothes - I've had all the Cumberbatch fangirls hammering the review on my blog so nice to have my opinion vindicated.

Hope you don't mind if I share the link here -

http://www.thingstodoinbalhamwhenyouredead.com/2011/02/cock-of-world-frankenstein-at-national.html

Anonymous said...

I was there last night and I can say that I thought it was terrible! Benedict Cumberbatch gives his all to the role as the creature, though it was a bit like watching kenneth williams play lord voldermort.
the staging is fine, but of course it was always going to be.
most of the audience around me were laughing in parts that i don't think were meant to be funny....rape scenes etc.

Will said...

Agree wholeheartedly - under-rehearsed and uneven - everything around the Creature, except the set, fell flat.

Similar sentiments in my review here: http://danceliketheydo.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of the above - the script is a little floppy in places and the compressed time line in the first half needs something more to give it roots. BUT, BC's creature, particularly in the opening 15 minutes is quite extraordinary. An entralling performance which allows the weaknesses of the script (which has some strengths - its thematic content is extremely effective) to be overcome and warrants standing ovation. I also enjoyed the quite deliberate moments of levity (save for the "that was good" post rape comment). All in all top quality theatre.

Anonymous said...

I was there last night. Its really just a terrible play, one of the worst I have seen. People were laughing at what were pivotal moments in the play. Cheap jokes are completely misplaced and not required at all! For a short play it really dragged on. And the initial 10 minutes of messing around on stage with no dialogue is not why I go to the theatre!

Some clapped at the end - I thought they were very generous with their applause - please can I have my money back?!

Anonymous said...

Caught up in the hype, and the pedigree of all involved, I've booked twice to see this production to ensure I see both character changes! ~ I have not therefore read the review in detail, just skimmed, but have read fully the comments...Oh dear I do hope it is not as bad a picture as you all paint here...there must be some redeeming factors surely......

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Ian. George Harris' performance last night was truly awful - I can't recollect ever seeing someone so talented looking so wooden on stage. Not sure if he was unwell, under-rehearsed or simply bored with the material he had to work with, but something urgently needs to be done with that role, and many other supporting roles.

The set looks as if it is designed by a person who designs film sets (it is) rather than a person who designs and understands the mechanics of stage shows, leading to some unnecessarily laboured scene changes (e.g. crew manually laying out turf and wooden walkways). I thought the gauze hut/wendy house was an odd scenic choice strangely at odds with everything else in the show.

But most of all - the script needs fixing. There's no problem with throwing in some humour to lighten the tone but for goodness sake choose the right moment. The creature's throwaway line after the rape scene is just wrong and immediately robs that scene - and the build up to it - of the repulsion you should feel.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ian said...

I have always welcomed debate on this blog, especially when it is as well-reasoned and passionate as the first eight commenters managed here. I will not tolerate abusive language or insults towards anyone though, any such comments will be deleted.

webcowgirl said...

Oh dear. I'm booked to see this on Monday, and I now feel like I'm doomed! Perhaps all monster plays are inherently bad?

Anonymous said...

Ian, thanks for the review. Have tickets and therefore will attend. To entice the boyfriend also to attend can you confirm if there is any nudity from Naomie Harris?

Anonymous said...

I saw this last night and thought Benedict Cummerbatch was magnificent as the creature and he deserved his standing ovation. The sets and lighting were also perfect examples of how good the national can be.

The play itself does need some work and I agree many of the supporting cast need a great deal of work before the opening, however the potential is there and there are still 2 weeks to go before the opening so perhaps Danny Boyle will make some more changes. I hope he does the two leads deserve it.

Ian said...

So many thing to talk about...!
The nudity is only from the Creature during the opening scene, then the Female Creature once Victor shows off his second creation, no Naomie I'm afraid.
I've never felt so out of touch with an audience's response at the end of a show: several people around me were getting restless and fidgety by the final scenes and I thought it would be well-received but never so rapturously - most surprising!
Some things, like the weird attempts at humour can be worked on as the laughter that came at the most inopportune of moments was highly distracting and detracting (although perhaps it is just indicative of the completely different audience this show is bring to the NT). There was one scene at the harbour where I was sure I was missing something visual as people were laughing so much, until I realised it was the script that was apparently creating the laughs. Bizarre.
But other things I fear are too fundamentally wrong unless there's some serious rewriting going on before opening night, I don't believe understating the issue helps anyone.
All told though, this is still a work-in-progress and I'm interested to hear what people have to say about Miller as the Creature (whenever that happens) and any changes that are made to the play.
Cheers

Mari said...

I've just returned from seeing Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and I have to say, he was wonderful. I can't quite comprehend how a skinny, lanky Creature would play out on the stage after seeing Miller. Naturally, Cumberbatch is more suited to the role of Frankenstein; and though he shines in scenes with Miller, the majority of his scenes are badly put together.
I did not expect to see such an abstract performance, but I thought this worked remarkably well in showing the humanity of the two pivotal characters. The set design was just beautiful.

Phil said...

Interesting evening, Frankenstein was. The creature seemed so 'eternally damned'-- and then later, so did the scientist seem plagued by his needs to create.

I wondered if the text would be better served with more dialogue sooner. As interesting as the birth of the monster was physically, I felt I needed more from the creature's creator to engage fully with what both characters were going through.

Is the creature's need for a female companion used to it's full effect in the writing? Not sure the script is providing enough room for the characters feelings. Very strong visuals often, but the beginnings and endings of scenes are often dropped too abruptly.

I would get glimpses of a central idea and then lose the thread in the blur. Was it about the monsters in man and vice versa? Is this a 'What have we become play/production?

It would be unfair to say the writing doesn't have it's moments. Any new script is under a magnifying glass in such a large space-- particularly with these kinds of themes.

Strong actors all around, although the leads do shout too often to make intensity perhaps.

Is a director like Danny Boyle more suitable to the camera and making performances that are closer to an audience? There seems to be a lot of work to still to to marry the scale of the evening with the emotions he has created. The evening also desparately needs love.

Adrian said...

Saw it last night and I wouldn't say it's perfect, but it was an original and memorable experience. To those with tickets who are worried about comments here, I'd say don't worry, make up your own mind when the time comes. It's astonishing to hear of restless, unimpressed audiences laughing in inappropriate places. There must have been some very rapid 'tweaking' as last night the audience seemed really gripped by the production, with a high proportion on their feet at the end. As I departed, there was a real 'buzz' and everything I overheard was positive.
As for lady wishing to entice her boyfriend along: believe me, the female 'monster' is stunning and he won't be disappointed! As for Naomie Harris, I thought one weakness is that she's given some very odd lines towards the end. Even considering that she's a particularly sympathetic character, I was baffled that she initially seems so pleased to see Victor's creation!

Anonymous said...

Great review - but can you please tell me how graphic the rape scene is as im going with my girlfried and Mum and they don't like that type of thing. Thanks.

Adrian said...

I found the rape scene shocking and unexpected, but it's brief and isn't graphic in terms of nudity, as neither person is undressed. You had better warn your girlfriend and Mum about the high amount of nudity elsewhere in the production, though, even if it could not be described as gratuitous.

reda said...

Is the female creature full frontal nude?

Mrs Shep said...

We saw the play on Saturday 12th with JLM in the role of Creature, and his performance was quite simply breath-taking from beginning to end. For this alone I felt compelled to rise to my feet at the close.

I can understand some of the reviewer's comments here, particularly in relation to the role of the supporting cast - and to be honest I would even include the character of Victor Frankenstein in this description; Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent in the role, but there was so little of it - especially early in the play - that it relegates the position of the Creator to subsidiary and servant to the Creature.

However, I believe this was probably intentional by Nick Dear and Danny Boyle as I understand they had been working on this project for a number of years, and the general idea was to tell the story specifically from the Creature's point of view - similar to the way in which John Gardner told the story of Beowulf from the monster's perspective in his novel "Grendel".

The nudity was initially shocking as I wasn't expecting it but I would also add that it was in no way gratuitous, instead portraying clearly that the Creature comes into being as a blank canvas - innocent as a new born, with all the lack of life experience and fore-knowledge of how the rest of the world will see him that this entails.

As for the rest of the cast it seems almost as though they are only there because they need to be as props to hang the plot upon, which is a pity. George Harris in particular, as has been mentioned by an earlier contributor here, seemed incongruous in the extreme. I appreciate the post-modern style of the piece means that issues of arbitrary racial mix within a family group and accented delivery should largely be ignored but, however hard I tried, it was still a distraction. Please, anyone reading this, understand that this is my p.o.v. in terms of preference for a certain amount of verisimilitude to be retained in these things even in a theatrical setting, and nothing more sinister than that.

As far as the humour goes I found it to be well placed and well used in the main, and I don't recall the line "that was good!" line being uttered by the Creature following the rape of Elizabeth (which was shocking without nudity or in-yer-face explicitness, despite being expected this time). I honestly can't say though whether it had been cut or whether I missed it because of the overall strength of the scene (in my opinion).

Other than that, I felt the lighting, staging and sound were more on the plus side rather than negative, though I did find the need for stage-hands to be visibly active between scenes off-putting on occasion, creating unnecessary breaks in the flow of the performance. The one thing I feel it could definitely do without is the steam-punk train; it felt decidedly out of place with the rest of the piece as a whole - and I'm a steam-punk fan!

As with all things, the play will hold differing levels of appeal for each person that experiences it, but I would personally recommend the piece and say to anyone with tickets to be aware that this is an unconventional re-telling of the story, but to go see it with an open mind.

Anonymous said...

It seems from reading above comments that the play must have changed dramatically since I saw it a week ago, guess that's what previews are for. With such talented cast and crew it doesn't surprise me that they've been able to turn things around but is I wonder how if they have managed to make the piece more gripping as a whole? I found the writing dull and the play slow in many places.

Anonymous said...

I agree with alot of the comments posted - apart from a brilliant performance from JLM as the Creature and some very solid scenes with Frankenstein and the Creature together I found it to be lacking something.

I am in an unusual position, as I am just about to start a production of Frankenstein (playing Justine who was sadly left out of this adaptation) and so had a slightly different view point. I don't think anything negative can be said of the direction which for the first half at least was well told, and the set which was visually stunning.
However, apart from the two leads who were strong, the rest of the cast had nothing to do. Most of the interesting characters from the novel were cut, Naomi Harris looked very awkward indeed the Father was terrible.
But the moment that really spoilt it for me is the inclusion of a rape in Elizabeth's death scene, which was I thought un-nessessary and was there for shock value. We have the death of Elizabeth in our production and produce the same spine-tingling moment without having to resort to anything that was't already in the original novel. I think Nick Dear and possibly Danny Boyle missed the point a little there.

Otherwise it was a stunning production - but not Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, so I hope the A-level students in front don't completely base their essays on this alone as they will fail! :O)

maggiemobbs said...

I went last night, Valentine's Day, and think nothing could be more appropriate than seeing a play about creation, love and the lack of it, and destruction. I think it must have improved a great deal since your review of 8th Feb...your description of the auditorium at the opening of the play is spot on. Still in preview, my fellow attendees were midde aged and middle class, with a smattering of youth...think they were otherwise engaged getting sloshed by the number of them that I encountered on my way home to Piccadilly! I didn't know who was going to emerge from the pod either...it was Jonny Lee Miller and for a split second I was disappointed as I wanted it to be the one. What an amazing beginning performance, he put his whole being into his birth...scraping and pulling himself along the stage, I did fear several times for his intimate bits...surely there'll be chaffing!!! He was the one that 'glowed' last night, and BC's Victor took second stage back in comparison. All other cast members were efficient and no, Naomi doesn't get naked, just down to a flimsy chemise. I was sitting in row D centre so very close to all the stage antics and gizmos. Loved the muslin house scenes. At the end of it all, I felt moved for the first time seeing BC so vulnerable and helpless in the hands of his creation. The audience didn't wait to burst into spontaneous applause and three standing ovations followed. They've got a long way to go, my worry is can they sustain such performances even with the alternate cast change. This production which ends on 17th April, will recommence with same cast in May but only for 15 or so performances. I've got tickets to see BC as the monster but already feel that JLM has really cracked it.

maggiemobbs said...

p.s. I meant "I wanted it to be the other one". And I meant to say I totally agree with all your comments regarding George Harris and Naomie Harris too. Both their parts need drastic alteration before the World Premier on 22nd February.

400902de-39ce-11e0-b7d2-000bcdcb471e said...

My partner and I went to see it on Valentine's evening with Miller as the creature - he was amazing in this role - but we didn't think much of Cumberbatch even though it was really him we went to see. I was surprised that the audience was laughing as much as they did and it put me off a little bit as I didn't think it was meant to be a comedy. My partner complained that the script was lacking in the second "half".. I didn't appreciate the rape scene either - I think that was gratuitous. Excellent review though, just what we thought!! (although we did actually like the train!!)

webcowgirl said...

I'm perfectly willing to be the Victor to your Creature as I saw the reverse set of roles on Valentine's day. I'm afraid the holes in the script are big enough to drive a train through even a week later; and I, too, don't want to go back and see it again to see if the reverse pairing is any better.

iain said...

"Anonymous" (aren't they always?) writes: "And the initial 10 minutes of messing around on stage with no dialogue is not why I go to the theatre!", which sounds so very "... signed, Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" that I thought I'd slipped back into the 1950s. It seems that the stunning achievements of physical theatre and dance mean nothing when the audience has a hankering for dialogue-laden "proper plays". Oh dear.
I was in London last month and finally caught up with the wonderful War Horse (wearing very well indeed at the New Lonodn) but was crestfallen when I found out that Frankenstein is sold out... it will of course transfer, but even so... late March will find the show screened live across the US in cinemas as part of the ongoing NTLive events, so I hope to be able to see it here in Los Angeles (it's going to be screened at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard - magic); I imagine that by then the text will have been trimmed or tightened - Nick Dear is an experienced writer so perhaps he was constrained by the running time and an overall concept that doesn't suit his style?

exiledbyaccident said...

I saw it last night and I found it unbearably bad - maybe they can work out some issues in the remaining previews and maybe the actors will get better (BC and JLM were slightly better than the rest, but only slightly so) but what they can't fix is the horrible, weak script.

Great review.

Sara said...

I went last night and was staggered by the enthusiastic response of the audience since I found the script utterly banal and some of the acting surprisingly weak. I was bored rigid for most of the two hours (it felt like four) and believe this is the worst production I've ever seen at the National Theatre.

Peter said...

I went to the final preview last night. If you just watch the spectacle and let the words pass by then its an enjoyable couple of hours - but I agree - ts a pretty awful script!i

Anonymous said...

Well. I saw this last week with JLM as the creature. While I was watching I was trying to decide if it was just the worst thing I had seen at the National or the worst thing I had ever seen. I couldn't comprehend the riotous applause at the end.

thiswayup said...

Agree with so much on here! Saw it on 12th with JLM as the Creature who was absolutely fantastic, couldn't fault him, but was so disappointed by the script - appalling narratively, and generally very unsatisfying and inelegant, except at the end. George Harris (the father) - was just about the worst, most wooden actor I've seen on stage in living memory; the "steampunk" train scene was totally incongruous, very odd, though happily brief (what show was that from?!!) - it needs cutting; and not enough Victor at all. Having said that.....some fantastic set pieces; a truly beautiful opening - ok a little bit self-indulgent, could have been cut by 5 mins but really brilliant - all the more so as I know they had some teething problems with the floor so it may have been quite painful for Creature. I do think the writing was bad though; possibly the direction lacked too but I always find that hard to judge. I have since booked to see the NT Live with BC as Creature, and looking forward to the contrast; so take heart if you already have tickets! I suppose after all the buildup it could never quite have lived up to our very highest expectations. It will live in my memory for a long time to come though. Some excellent performances and beautiful, beautiful lighting piece though; some wonderful moments, just needs to be dug up & stitched together in a slightly different shape.....oh......

everythingtheatre said...

Agree that the script (in particular some of the dialogue) was the weakest part. But overall one of the best productions so far this season.

Full review here:
http://everything-theatre.blogspot.com/2011/02/frankenstein-national-theatre.html

Anonymous said...

This play was so slow to start! Although I understood what they were trying to do with the creature being born, I admit I ended up having to stiffle a fit of the giggles as I felt the length of him crawling and running round in the nude was really not needed!
Johnny Lee Miller was amazing as the creature and Cumberbatch as Dr couldnt imagine this any other way.
The direction and scenery was great! I felt the influence of film did show through but in a good way! The script in parts agreed was poor but it made up for it with others. Agree with the steam train bit!! Do not understand what that was about!!!

Anonymous said...

too much money not enough work. godawful script and performances from naomi harris and that bloody child. least convincing rape and murder scene ever and johnny lee miller not up to the tas of the creature (embaressingly bad fringe level physical theatre) and cumberbund overacting and shouting throughout. 1 scene with drama clunky set change and big money effect after another. a painfully long two hours. DO NOT BOTHER OR BELIEVE THE HYPE. bad fringe theatre in emporers new clothes

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how negative some of the reviews were.
I saw Frankenstein in preview on the 12th February. JLM was the Creature and BC as Frankenstein.

Whilst I agree that areas of the script are lacking, the chemistry between the two leads and the sheer emotion portrayed is beautiful.

I'm shocked that you had audiences laughing inappropriately, the comedy was well placed and recieved whilst moments of tension remained as such. The audience were on the edge of their seats.

The only "negative" comments I heard on leaving the theatre were from people who were expecting something dark and gothic in the sense of the films, rather than the deeper literary meaning of gothic as intended by Shelley. I feel Boyle created the horror, sadness and emotion spectacularly and that the criticism of people I heard stemmed from a lack of understanding and misguided expectations rather than errors within the play.

The supporting actors were weak in preview, but this allowed JLM and BC to shine further in their roles. They really must be commended. The pair of them were the greatest bit of live acting I have had the pleasure to see on stage.

I felt Frankenstein was so good that I am booked to see it in NTLive in a few weeks, watching with the roles reversed. My only fear is that BC was so suited to the role of Victor I cannot imagine him as the role of Creature ... but that is one of the joys of it being reversed and I am very intrigued to see what both actors bring to each role.

(This post is Anonymous as I do not have an account I could log in with ... not a case of hidiing my identity as I've dared to disagree!!)

Anonymous said...

I saw Frankenstein last night with BC as the Creature. I thought he was truely brilliant, and JLM gave a great, solid performance as Frankenstein.

Our audience were gripped from what I could see, though I was in row 4, so maybe those behind were not as impressed.

As with the previous reviewer, our audience laughed where appropriate, but this did not in anyway take away from the action or tension. I found myself welling up when the creature appealed to Frankenstein to create a bride for him saying he was lonely.

All in all, I felt this was one of the best things I've seen in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Baffled at all the demands to know about full-frontal nudity! If that's the only reason you're going just stay home and watch porn!

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I sat in a cinema in Sydney, Australia and for double the usual price of a movie ticket I got to see a video of this production as part of the National Theatre Live program. A naff onscreen commentator began proceedings by stating that what I was seeing was "almost live". In fact it was three weeks old.
Screenings like this have now occurred in over a hundred cinemas around the world.
A nice little earner for the National.
I attended because I'd read online the generally glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent.
I truly wish I'd discovered this site before wasting my time and money.
While the opening fifteen minutes were a fine piece of physical theatre, once Mr Boyle started working through his checklist of coup de theatres (a big overhead lighting feature, fire, rain, snow, smoke, a simulated train, a split level revolve etc) I found it all very tiresome.
It may have had some power live, but that certainly didn't translate onscreen. (For those curious about such things, Mr Cumberbatch was selected to portray the Monster for international audiences, and loin cloths were employed to allow public screenings).
The script is truly awful. There are at least two better stage adaptations of this novel in existence. This one felt at times like a Python sketch.
The quality of certain supporting performances certainly hadn't improved throughout the run. "Colour blind casting" is currently a very hot issue in Australian theatre, but unfortunately the work of Mr Harris, who I believe has proved himself to be a fine actor in other productions, did nothing to further the cause.
Hopefully "innovations" such as NT Live will at least stop the practice of major British companies sending second rate touring versions of hit shows out to the colonies. I'm still recovering from the RSC's Richard III in which, by the time it reached our shores, Antony Sher was the only remaining original cast member and was now playing the role like he was in panto.

Rowan from Sydney
(I did not wish to be "Anonymous" but am too much of a ludite to successfully create a profile).

Anonymous said...

I found this play completely banal. It's all about a fancy chandelier shining lights over an infantile cripple who keeps harassing his creator asking him: "Why did you abandon me, why did you abandon me?" for two hours.
This script has not depth whatsoever, the set design too fancy for a gothic theme.
I find intriguing why a black actor plays father to a white actor, it is not credible and given that this is not experimental theatre I suppose they did it in terms of funding-UK funding bodies have diversity and inclusion on top of their agenda.
I would have prefered a more profound philosophical script and a cast of two actors only: the creator and the creature.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Saw this at the matinee today- queued at 8am for tkts!

Really bad stuff.

Cumberbatch was great as Frankenstein.

This is about the only good thing I can say about the production, unfortunately.

Can I ask, why do the big British newspapers continually give rubbish productions great reviews?

This is the last time I wil be taken in by them.

Are they all great buddies with the theatre-makers? Are they bribed to write glowing reviews? OR, is it quite simply, that they don't know their arse from their elbow, when it comes to decent theatre?

Mo