Tuesday, October 14, 2014

National Theatre's "Frankenstein"

In February, 2011, a new stage version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein premiered at London's Royal National Theatre, adapted by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, the play was an instant hit, and sold out night after night. There were several unique aspects to this production; most notably, the actors alternated roles on consecutive nights, switching between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Also, on March 17 & 19, as part of the "National Theatre Live" program, the play was broadcast into movie theatres across the globe.

This "Live" initiative allows for those outside of London to experience the best of British theatre at their local cinema, and the program has resulted in Frankenstein becoming a worldwide success, seen by over a half a million people. It's proven to be so popular that it's running again this month! In Toronto, the play can be seen on October 15 & 22 at the Cineplex Odeon at Yonge & Dundas, and there are dozens of other locations and dates throughout October and November where this encore performance can be experienced. Check out the National Theatre Live’s website for details.

Cumberbatch as the Creature (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
Now, back to the Boyle-Dear adaptation. They first came up with the idea to collaborate on a Frankenstein project in the early 1990s, but the plan was put on hold after the release of Kenneth Branagh's film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994). Boyle then started making feature films; you may have heard of some of them: Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting (1996), 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007), Slumdog Millioniaire (2008), etc. All the while, Dear was active in the theatre, and continued to flesh out his script for Frankenstein.

He went back to the source for inspiration; much like in the novel, the playwright has given the Monster a voice, which is one of the many aspects that makes this version so compelling.

Miller as the Creature (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
The collaboration focused on telling the story from the Monster's point of view, and it was Boyle's idea to have the lead actors alternate roles each night. He remembered seeing a production of Richard II in his youth, which was done in the same manner; he realized it would work well with Dear's adaptation. Since Victor and his creation are essentially two sides of the same coin, it was a natural fit. This must have certainly been a daunting task for the actors, but by all accounts, they pulled it off magnificently.

Do yourself a favour: try to see this in a local cinema, if you can! I have a feeling you won't regret it.

Here's the trailer for the encore screening:

And here's a video of Boyle and Dear, chatting about their collaboration with one of my personal heroes: the awesome Christopher Frayling:

31 Days of Horror (2014 Edition) continues tomorrow...


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