National Theatre Live has become something of a habit of mine, it seems. A few weeks back I visited my local cinema (movie theatre to us yanks) and settled in for a roller coaster ride in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire from the Young Vic. Tonight, fittingly for what EM is calling ‘Hallo-week’, I stepped into the theater to witness the encore viewing of Frankenstein from the National Theatre. It was heartbreaking, disturbing, shocking and amazing. Jonny Lee Miller stepped into the shoes of The Creature in this performance and I was speechless at his interpretation.
The show was film back in 2011, but due to popular demand was brought back for a limited time to the cinemas. The way it was staged, each actor (Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch) took on the role of Dr. Frankenstein or his Creature on alternating nights. I now want to see the version where Cumberbatch(Star Trek Into Darkness, BBC Sherlock) plays The Creature and Miller(Elementary, Byzantium, Dark Shadows) plays Frankenstein to have another horrifyingly stunning experience.
The play opens with The Creature’s birth that is soundtracked by a thumping heart and illuminated by what had to be 500+ lightbulbs of different shapes hanging from the ceiling. With each zap of life-giving energy these bulb flashed in a dazzling show of light like I have never seen in live theatre (As EM and I always say, the Brits do it better. Even theatre.). At his father’s(Dr. Frankenstein) rejection, we watch him stumble through his infancy, his first horrible experiences with human beings, learning to talk and read due to the kindness of an old blind man. Much like The Phantom in The Phantom Of The Opera, we feel his sadness, his loneliness and his fear. Until he finally discovers hatred.
Jonny Lee Miller physically and mentally embodied the Creature so well that I felt like he was born that way. It was chilling, terrifying and thrilling. His approach was so physical from the limp he constantly had, to the twitch of his fingers and the lisp he constantly spoke with. I was sitting in the theatre with my mouth agape in awe.
As I always do, I must give a round of applause to the creatives. The set was simplistic in design, but anything but. Pieces flew in from above to give us a house in a field and docks on a lake. A minimalist locomotive rolled out onto the stage in the form of four cogs and a hand full of cast members creating the noses and motions of the machine. The circular motion of the stage itself and the elevator helped create multiple locations and take us on the journey that these two characters share. Stellar.
The Creature’s makeup was another thing of beauty. While horrific in appearance, it was beautiful in design. From birth, to crawling, to flailing about on the stage floor, to water being poured over it, nothing moved an inch. I leaned over to my viewing partner and whispered my awe and wonder over that very fact. I was blown away.
Had I been in the theatre watching this show live, I would have been on my feet the minute it was over. There are three more encore viewings of this magnificent show coming up on October 31, November 12 and November 16, please go see it. We may not be able to transport to the UK from the states just yet, but this is the next best thing for we theatre geeks.
For showing and theatres in your area, please visit: National Theatre Live – Frankenstein