This startling and distinctive production is a fascinating take on Mary Shelley’s classic gothic story.
Directed by Danny Boyle and adapted by Nick Dear, this is a wonderfully physical and suitably gothic take on Frankenstein that is compelling to watch from start to finish – with the two central performances delivering full on intensity.
From the beginning in which The Creature is born in an incredible piece of physical theatre, mesmerisingly performed by Benedict Cumberbatch, all the way through to horrific climax of the story, Frankenstein is a powerful piece of drama.
Nick Dear’s adaptation of the story, particularly during the first half an hour of the production, allows the audience to see the story from The Creature’s perspective, generating sympathy as he is beaten, threatened and treated cruelly by people. Everything he sees and experiences we do too, particularly as he goes off and discovers more about himself and the world in which he is in. But while we see the cruelty of the world, there are also glimpses of compassion highlighted as De Lacey teaches hime to read and talk – but of course it doesn’t last. It is moments like this when The Creature is given some real human emotions that we can see and understand his character more.
Of course, this adaptation also offers fascinating moments between The Creature and his creator Victor Frankenstein – such has the moment when they first fully come face to face. Brilliantly lit by Bruno Poet’s gothic lighting, you get a real sense of both characters despising yet admiring each other as the confront each other about what has happened.
But there are times in Danny Boyle’s chillingly atmospheric but engaging production that don’t quite work. The dream sequence in which The Creature dreams of having female company, conveyed by contemporary dance doesn’t quite fit in with the tone of the production as a whole. It feels as though it relies too much on the physical element to really get to grips with the story that can feel then slightly rushed through.
However, this being said, the two central performances from Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor Frankenstein are utterly compelling to watch. The way in which Cumberbatch physically becomes and inhabits the role is stunning, while still being able to convey his sense of humanity – even if he does increasingly horrific acts as the story unfolds. Meanwhile, Miller as Frankenstein conveys the scientist’s sense of obsession with great conviction and power.
Overall, this is a production which is consistently fascinating and gripping to watch unfold right up to the horrifying ending. It might not be perfect but still has much to recommend it.
By Emma Clarendon
Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature is streaming is available on demand until 7pm UK time on Thursday 7 May.
Meanwhile, to see Jonny Lee Miller as the creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein, it will be streaming for free from 7pm UK time on Friday 1 May. Available on demand until 7pm UK time on Friday 8 May.