BWW Review: FRANKENSTEIN, Jack Studio Theatre
I blame Christopher Nolan. His overlaying timelines storytelling shtick packs a punch and can be intellectually satisfying, but it can be hard work too and, at well over two hours running time, Arrows and Traps Theatre's free adaptation of Frankenstein enjoys a full hand of Nolanish pros and cons.
Ross McGregor weaves three narratives strands into a demanding, but stimulating, whole. We get The Creature of course, brilliantly portrayed with a winning pathos by Will Pinchin (whose palsied speech and movement swiftly give way to intelligence, psychological pain and ultimately righteous anger) whose touching relationship with blind. sweet, beautiful Agatha (Zoe Dales) is dropped rather too swiftly for my liking.
Alongside The Creature's sentimental education, we see the story of his creator, Victor Frankenstein (a manic / mad Christopher Tester - casting surely not a case of deliberate nominative determinism) and their father / nemesis, Holmes / Moriarty style polar showdown. And, if that wasn't enough, we're also privy to Mary Shelley's tortured affair with the poet, Percy: Cornelia Baumann pursed of lip and pained of arm and heart with Oliver Brassell left with nothing much to do except ham it up as a very shelleyesque Shelley, all impetuosity, sensuality and dazzling irresponsibility.
Ben Jacobs delivers some fine lighting in the small space available and Odin Corie's costumes are both lovely to look at and give an authentic early 19th century feel to the work, crucial in underlining its themes about the newly emerging understanding of the power of science and technology and the limits of humanity.
There's much to contemplate about the nature of life (I saw more clearly than ever the debt Phillip K Dick owes to Mary Shelley) and about how traditional emotions can overwhelm radical politics. There's more proper thinky stuff too, but the production suffers a little from the writer/director problem - with McGregor fulfilling both roles, there was no brake on his packing more and more into the play and it all gets to be too much at times.
Worth seeing of course, but get a good night's sleep, snap up a programme to keep tabs on the double and triple casting and read wikipedia to remind you of the life of Mary Shelley - else you might need a bolt of lightning to reset your concentration at the interval!
Photo Davor Tovarlaza @ The Ocular Creative