Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one of horror’s most iconic creations is treading the boards of Cardiff’s New Theatre for Hallowe’en week. Blurring reality with fiction, Rona Munro’s new stage adaptation takes an interesting twist by placing the story’s original author and creator, Mary Shelley, in the centre of the 19th century Gothic Horror plot.
Mary, the prototype teenager with attitude for future generations, seeks inspiration to write her story. The words begin to flow and the characters, Dr Victor Frankenstein, his fiancée Elizabeth, brother Henry and the professor’s monstrous creation, all come to life. Scribbling furiously into her notebook, Mary reads aloud her writings, as Dr Victor Frankenstein speaks her words and works furiously to create a man who cannot die.
With the creative process in full flow, Shelley teases the audience as to how her horror story is progressing. However; even Mary cannot be prepared for the magnitude of her own creative genius as the monster screams to life. The monster pounces first for Dr Frankenstein and then breaks the literary fourth wall and terrorises Mary herself. Her imagination unleashed, it’s a dramatic moment of realisation that the authors pen is mightier than any sword. The audience is gripped in a unique twist on a Gothic Horror classic!
Simon Slater’s sound design for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein features a collection of cold, eerie outdoor echoes mixed with the buzzing static of electricity. This adds to the magnificence of Becky Minto’s dominant set, a marble hall embellished with a mobile desk, bookcases, wires, chandeliers and twisted tree branches (enabling the actors to move from one level to the next with ease) to switch the scene from the Frankenstein home, to a laboratory and even a boat at sea. The production is completed by the vibrancy and energy of its cast, warm and brooding in their 18th century Gothic stylised costumes.
Combining excitement with a growing confidence in writing the Frankenstein book, Eilidh Loan’s portrayal of Mary Shelley is enthralling. Shelley’s character is multi-layered, and it becomes clear she loathes as well as loves her heroic creation, Dr Frankenstein.
Ben Castle Gibb’s Dr Frankenstein is refreshing, portrayed as a younger character, but despite his wisdom, he fails to succeed in saving those close to him and rapidly heads for a steady decline. Both Eilidh Loan’s and Gibb’s exchanges are beautifully staged, Shelley can see Frankenstein, but not vice versa.
Wild and seemingly lost, Michael Moreland strikes the right balance as the monster, who struggles to come to terms with the rejection from his master, seemingly with a remarkable intelligence. Beyond grunting and screaming, there is some strong dialogue beautifully delivered by Moreland.
Making up the remainder of the multiple roles are excellent support performances from Thierry Mabonga, Natali McCleary, Sarah MacGillivray and Greg Powrie, all assuming several roles and in some cases, multiple death scenes!
Fearless and powerful in presentation and performance, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a must-see Hallowe’en treat.
It continues at Cardiff’s New Theatre until November 2.