Written by Ross McGregor based on the novel by Mary Shelley
Arrows & Traps Theatre
The Jack Studio Theatre
Frankenstein is a carefully arranged piece of writing in which a chronicle of the life of Mary Shelley is paralleled with scenes from her famous novel.
Writer and adaptor Ross McGregor doesn't propose that the former informed the latter—this wouldn't hold water since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was in her late teens—but he has placed the scenes in such a way as to form links, be they real or imagined, between events in the life of Mary Shelley and key episodes in Frankenstein.
Mary Shelley had a turbulent life fated from its outset to be unconventional, being the daughter of a liberal philosopher father and founding feminist mother whose early death did little to diminish her influence on the young Mary and the wider household which included a half-sister and later step-siblings.
Mary Shelley is known above all else for writing the novel Frankenstein and for being the wife (eventually) of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley with whom she had four children, three of whom died in infancy, so McGregor's play makes for an especially interesting watch.
Will Pinchin gives a hauntingly emotive performance as The Creature, alienated from society by his appearance and indecorous manner.
Scarred and club-footed, Pinchin lets us see the warm-hearted, dignified human within the disfigured shell, a contrast to the gentleman scientist Victor Frankenstein, driven and selfish in his endeavours to control life force.
Christopher Tester captures Victor's passion and the frustration of being on the threshold of discovery and then caught on the horns of a malignant dilemma. It is a strong performance equalled by that of Cornelia Baumann as a resolute Mary Shelley, enduring loss, social ostracism and financial hardship with self-respect.
Beatrice Vincent's is a tender portrayal of Mary's half sister Fanny Imlay, taunted by her illegitimacy, impoverished and socially disgraced by Shelley, Mary and step-sister Claire's unorthodox living arrangements.
Zoe Dales plays Claire and, from the novel, Agatha the blind woman who befriends The Creature, and playing both Victor's long-suffering girlfriend Elizabeth and Shelley's abandoned first wife is Victoria Llewellyn. The four carefully distinguished portrayals are as refreshingly spirited young women.
Ross McGregor has done a great job at creating some strongly atmospheric and dramatic scenes, supported by striking lighting (designed by Ben Jacobs) and fervent music.
As I have said of other directors of their own work, Ross McGregor the director should, as well as modifying some linguistic anachronisms of McGregor the writer, do some judicious cutting as the play starts to overstay its welcome in order to reach the novel's tragic resolution.
This adaptation is nonetheless a rewarding experience which works extremely well as a moving exploration of isolation, loss and parental abandonment.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti