As Halloween draws closer, York Theatre Royal are offering an eerily good time as they host Tilted Wig and their chilling rendition of Frankenstein.
The illustrious Mary Shelley novel is a literary classic and has been previously adapted successfully for both stage and screen – so is it possible that this rendition can offer something new? Yes is the answer. I can guarantee you will leave the theatre with a larger question mark hanging over the age old question: who’s the real monster?
Frankenstein is at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 October.
Séan Aydon transports us to 1943 Europe, and as the war rages on, so does the physical and psychological battles of the characters we meet. Victoria Frankenstein (Eleanor McLoughlin) gives an autobiographical account of her life and work as an established biologist, who’s biggest accomplishment was taking life into her own hands – and in fact creating life altogether, with the help of her driven assistant Francine (Annette Hannah). Despite their shocking success, there is a lack of positive outcomes in sight; though this may be the biggest achievement of her career, as the story unfolds, it’s not one she can be entirely proud of.
The set design exceeded all expectations as Nicky Bunch created an atmosphere from the moment the curtain rose. We were first transported to a small shack, an intimate space where interrogations and home truths could be dispensed between Frankenstein and the stranger she meets. Then to the main hub of the action, Victoria’s laboratory, where her creation could come to life and the terrifying drama could unfold. The use of lighting, designed fantastically by Matt Haskins, alongside the impressive set only helped create the disturbing environment we were transported to.
The small cast all delivered unique characters that helped elevate the story, from Eleanor McLoughlin’s iron-willed leading lady Frankenstein to Dale Mathurin’s charming Henry; the chemistry between characters was brilliantly executed. And I can only imagine how physically and emotionally demanding it must be for Cameron Robertson to play The Creature each performance – especially the powerful scenes alongside McLoughlin, bringing an unexpected wisdom to a character you may have once assumed was incapable of even basic communication.
Annette Hannah’s excellent portrayal of Francine provided us with one of the most poignant moments of the show. If Victoria is so keen to improve something imperfect, does this apply to her too? Does Francine’s dwarfism or The Creature’s unattractive form mean they require improvement to be accepted? This is what Victoria implies without realising and this leads her to be just as guilty as those that openly snub her assistant.
Whilst the production plays with tension throughout, I did feel it lacked important scenes which instead were told through monologues; these vital moments could have created excellent opportunities to utilise the fantastic staging more. And while I can appreciate these monologues reflect back to Shelley’s original epistolary style in the novel, it meant a lot of the much anticipated action took place behind the scenes and instead was recapped quickly with a lack of focus on these events. I understand this will be touring again in 2024 and it would be brilliant to see some of these critical moments depicted for us to witness.
Although this show will give you a much needed jump-scare or two this Halloween, what I feel is equally impressive is its use of humour and light-heartedness – which only made those frightening moments even more unsettling.
If you would like to be in for a terrifying treat this spooky season, head on down to York Theatre Royal where Frankenstein and her creation will be ready to welcome you.. and frighten you this week.
Frankenstein is at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 28 October. Tickets start from £15 and are available via the York Theatre Royal website.