Mary Shelley, adapted by Lisa Evans
Produced by the Royal and Derngate in association with Frantic Assembly
Royal Theatre, Northampton
The Royal and Derngate, under the directorship of Laurie Sansom, continue to produce and co-produce innovative and exciting theatre. With Frankenstein, currently playing in the Royal, the mould is not broken.
The masterstroke is perhaps the collaboration with Frantic Assembly - the Physical Theatre Company who still manage to interject originality to performances, despite their fourteen years of producing theatre. This piece was no exception and had a 'frantic' stamp all over it.
In fact, the strongest moments in the production were the visual, physical scenes that seemed to have had the frantic effect - twisting and turning, moving with effortless ease and perfect timing. The only let down was that we did not see more of this - especially in the second act.
Of course, the physical effect of the show was carried through with the role of the monster - moved around the stage by Richard Winsor with a physical commitment that made the role very believable.
There will be those who know and love the story of Frankenstein who may feel let down by this production. Although the text does tell the story, we are also introduced to another 'world' that runs at the same time as the original Mary Shelley version.
The parallel story line of a modern day psychiatric patient 'Mary' - admitted for murdering her child - worked cleverly with the traditional story of Frankenstein and his creation. It created an intriguing twist to a familiar tale and kept the audience guessing. Whether the idea was fully developed is debatable; there was a sense of disappointment at the end of the modern day story, as though the link of freezing darkness was not quite strong enough.
Once again, though, the Royal achieves in its design elements. The haunting soundtrack, composed and designed by Adam Cork, blasted out to create tension and make the audience jump with sharp intake of breath, worked extremely well.
Composed to include haunting melodies and rhythmic beats, the soundtrack made the transitions between the modern day and traditional seamless. It also created a track for the wonderful movement sequences - the anatomy and letter-writing scene stands out.
The set design was also effective and functional, allowing the action to move along without disruption. Jessica Curtis' use of a trap door and slanted wall offered options which were well used by the ensemble, often adding to the tension of the production as the monster jumped out from the under world to give the audience a fright.
Therefore, Laurie Sansom seems to have done it again. A talented cast led by a strong performance by Ifan Meredith as Victor Frankenstein and Richard Winsor's brilliant physical monster told Lisa Evan's clever adaptation with a slick commitment. Couple this with the Frantic Assembly collaboration and the creative design and you cannot really go wrong. One for the purist and the modernist alike.
"Frankenstein" plays at the Royal and Dernagate in the Royal Theatre until Saturday 15th March
Reviewer: John Johnson