Frankenstein: The National Theater

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate as the Creature and Victor Frankenstein in the UK’s National Theater production of Frankenstein. It’s available on YouTube for a limited period so do not waste time waiting to see it.

It’s hard to believe that I have never sn Frankenstein produced, neither on film nor on stage, and never read the book, despite having watched thousands of films and dozens of plays. and read lawd knows how many books. I am glad to have had this opportunity to see this skillful production.

The beginning was not auspicious. The Creature (Cumberbatch in the version I saw) tumbles from a womb like structure, tries to stand then walk, going through a recapitulation of childhood. There are some things that by being hit over the head one would benefit, but this is sequence is not one of them. I was beginning to think about doig something else until the play went to his struggle for acceptance, given Creature’s hideous difference from the rest of us.

I did wonder why someone who reads Milton could not somehow come up with a better outfit or run over to the Phantom stage and steal a mask. Adapting to one’s shortcoming were obviously not Shelley’s chief concern but Creature was smart enough to have done more, I should think. But those double crossing normal people! And I also wondered why, if the Dr. could figure out how to produce a Creature and nearly a second before breaking his word to deliver her, couldn’t he come up with some plastic surgery and perhaps a speech therapist? Oh well, such practicalities weren’t the thing at the time I guess.

But the point is in good measure the struggle between society and the individual in the determination of identity and society’s failure to nurture the disadvantaged in the process, helping turn them into criminals. It was not just the Creature who murdered the newly wed — society also grasped the knife, guided by fear and not understanding. Notch off a “victory” for those who think government should do the least possible and leave it up to the mobs to deal with such issues.

The theater craft is exemplary. You’ll enjoy the staging and lighting in addition to the fine acting. Perhaps they should consider ole Cumby for other roles, given his rolls in this one. Perhaps a bit of Sherlock? Nah. Gotta stand upright and you do not get to scare the wits out of the public.

We watched National Theater’s production of Hamlet. A woman was cast as Hamlet and neither of us thought that worked. Romeo and Juliet was very well done in a set from the times. But with all this Shakespeare I am ready for Something Rotten.

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