Penny Bristow reviews the National Theatre’s encore screening of Frankenstein
This sensational production adapted by Nick Dear and directed by Oscar winning Danny Boyle stars Benedict Cumberbatch (off BBC Sherlock) and Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) alternating the roles as Victor Frankenstein and his creation.
The production came to life in 2011 at the National Theatre and was originally broadcast live in March of that year.
In the production shown last Thursday at South Holland Centre it was Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role as Frankenstein and Johnny Lee Miller as the Creature.
This adaptation is a humane and intelligent version of Mary Shelley’s story. Instantly you feel the vulnerability of Miller’s Creature as he is “born” on stage where he writhes and wriggles, learning to use his limbs and mouth, throwing himself around, rocking back and forth, even sucking his toe like a toddler.
He is immediately outcast by Frankenstein who is horrified by what he has created, and from then your compassion grows for Miller’s creature through the wonderful changes he makes.
For a while I envied the creature’s ignorance: Miller’s beautiful portrayal of discovering the sunrise for the first time, hearing the birds sing, feeling the grass under your feet and rain on your skin. The creature becomes an intelligent, educated man with normal desires and ambitions, and longs to be part of society but suffers rejection and persecution.
Cumberbatch plays Victor Frankenstein as the cold hearted, single minded scientist who wanted to play God with his experiments, tormenting his creature with broken promises. At one point the creature shouts: “You make sport with my life” and “Why can I not be who I am?”, “Why does humanity detest me?” To me the creature is definitely the victim, vulnerable and lonely, seeking love and approval like any rejected child, and Frankestein is the monster. However, these roles change from one moment to the next through the story, largely leaving issues unresolved as the two figures depart into an icy wilderness.