BWW Review: THE CREATURE: FRANKENSTEIN RETOLD, Rose Theatre
The Rose Youth Theatre has great form in developing new theatrical talent. With excellent performances by members in every Christmas production at the Rose, The Creature: Frankenstein Retold is an exciting opportunity to witness the professional debut for nine alumni of the group.
Written by Ciaran McConville and directed by Lucy Morrell, Mary Shelley's iconic story is brought into a modern-day setting where new technology is used to create a creature with potentially catastrophic capabilities. The play touches on friendship, love, community and the potential of science to both save and destroy. The Creator is a brilliant scientist who believes that she has the ability to create something better than a human being. The Creature that results wants to be the image of The Creator, but leaves a trail of death and destruction in its wake. In the end, who is controlling whom?
Eleanor Clark has the demanding role of The Creator. On stage almost throughout, she captures the coldness and intensity of the character well. Frankie Oldham is suitably sinister as the menacing megalomaniac Mr Kremp. Francis Redfern, excellent in previous Christmas productions, is very convincing as the worried Captain Ralf Wile, but underused.
Anna Pryce gives a strong performance as The Creature; her physical execution of the role in particular is excellent, as she emerges contorted, twitching and unable to unfurl. Her body gives subtle little starts and jumps, as though reacting to electrical charges.
In fact, the physical acting overall is very impressive. It is clear that a lot of time has been spent on the positions and reactions in the bodies of the whole cast. Morrell adeptly uses the cast as a chorus, narrating where necessary and reacting to the story as it unfolds. The whole cast work really well together here, moving fluidly as individuals and even better as a group, particularly when acting out parts of The Creator's own subconscious.
Morrell originally staged The Creature as a youth theatre production in 2019 and has worked with designer Peter Conolly to use the vast space of the Rose effectively. The design is suitably rugged with a sprawling metal structure at the back of the stage with wires, circuits and transformers entwinned in and around it, with ragged remnants of white fabric fluttering from the top. It's a shame that it is not used more within the production, as it looks impressive, especially combined with Dave Stammer's atmospheric lighting.
Despite the best efforts of the cast, the script is problematic. The story has been brought into the modern day, but despite the occasional swearing, tequila shots and references to Islamic terrorism and immigration; the construction of some of the language McConville uses feels rather old-fashioned. As a result, some dialogue feels unnatural and stilted and certain relationships feel contrived.
The production would also benefit from some judicious editing; the first half hour in particular feels inconsequential and there is arguably too much crammed into the second half. A clever twist at the end is not enough to revive the whole production from lagging.
It is laudable that the Rose continues to support its youth theatre and give its members the opportunity to develop and hone their skills in a professional capacity. This production is a good opportunity to see the start of some bright futures in action.
Photo Credit: Csilla Horváth