Monday, March 14, 2011
The National Theatre's production of Frankenstein has been given some of the best reviews I've seen in years, and is a massive sell-out hit. So I was a bit surprised to find that it's not really all it's cracked up to be.
Benedict Cumberbatch was the Creature on Saturday, and he was undoubtedly brilliant. The opening scene, in which he emerges from a womb-like drum into life, was a tour de force. But the world into which he emerged was basically a series of effects from the National's massive budget, with nods at Les Mis in the form of snarling 19th century prostitutes. There was even a train. Not that I'm one to object to visual flamboyance in the theatre - but it needs to be done with a sense of meaning, and not just for show.
The crux of Mary Shelley's novel is the character of Frankenstein himself, the Modern Prometheus, and the question as to why he should create life, only to abandon it. In this production, for all the gimmick of the leading actors swapping roles, the character became a cipher, only of interest to the director and playwright in so far as he encounters the Creature. But without Frankenstein's urge to create, there is no Creature - so why should we care?
Heresy, I know.....