Tilted Wig’s “Frankenstein” at Derby Theatre offers a mesmerising and thought-provoking theatrical experience that artfully combines the familiarity of Mary Shelley’s classic tale with innovative nuances. Séan Aydon’s adaptation successfully traverses the fine line between retaining the essence of the original story and introducing fresh perspectives, making it a production that both, rather aptly, respects tradition and embraces evolution.
One of the standout elements of this adaptation is its ability to explore profound themes while anchoring them in a historical context. Set against the harrowing backdrop of World War Two, the production introduces layers of complexity and urgency. Aydon’s decision to intertwine the narrative with the prevailing ideologies of the time, such as eugenics and racial purity, amplifies the stakes of Dr. Victoria Frankenstein’s experiments. In doing so, it compels the audience to not only reflect on the past but also to draw parallels with contemporary ethical dilemmas. The notion of chasing “perfection” takes on a more visceral meaning, urging viewers to contemplate the dangerous power of science and technology.
While Aydon’s innovative approach to setting provides ample food for thought, the gender swap of the protagonist from Doctor Victor Frankenstein to Doctor Victoria Frankenstein feels, at times, inconsequential. It is an interesting concept that could have been explored more deeply to offer a novel perspective on the character and the narrative. However, it doesn’t significantly impact the overall storyline or character dynamics, leavinga missed opportunity for a more profound reinvention.
The heart of any “Frankenstein” production lies in the portrayal of the Creature, and Cameron Robertson’s performance as the Creature is nothing short of outstanding. His delivery of lines is infused with undeniable passion and conviction, breathing life into a character that exists on the boundary between sympathy and horror. What truly sets Robertson’s portrayal apart is his remarkable physicality, which brings a visceral dimension to the role. His ability to navigate the complex nature of the Creature ensures that the audience is not just witnessing a performance but experiencing a profound exploration of identity, creation, and humanity.
Eleanor McLoughlin’s portrayal of Victoria Frankenstein is also commendable. She shoulders the weight of the narrative from the beginning to the end with unwavering commitment. Her performance captures the essence of a character who is driven by ambition and curiosity, making her journey both believable and engaging to watch. McLoughlin’s ability to convey the character’s journey, from scientific curiosity to the moral dilemmas she faces, adds depth to the production.
Basienka Blake’s dual roles as Captain and Richkter showcase her remarkable versatility as an actor. She delivers a stoic and level performance in both characters, effectively embodying the contrasting personalities they represent. Blake’s ability to seamlessly transition between oppressor and oppressed underscores the complexity of her characters and demonstrates her skill, talent and ability in characterisation.
In addition to the exceptional performances, the creative team behind “Frankenstein” deserves commendation. Matt Haskins’ lighting design and Eamonn O’Dwyer’s sound design play pivotal roles in building tension and crafting an immersive atmosphere. Their work contributes significantly to the impact of the production, enhancing the mood of the piece.
Missy Brazier’s makeup, wig, and prosthetic design are also praiseworthy. The meticulous attention to detail in creating the physical appearance of the Creature adds authenticity to the storytelling. These elements enhance the audience’s perception of the character’s human and non-human composition.
Nicky Bunch’s set design adheres to the expectations of a classic “Frankenstein” staging, firmly positioning the piece in the era it is set with a believable laboratory setting. The set does well to accommodate the vast majority of the show’s scenes. However, given this production’s reimagining of a classic narrative, it seems to be a missed opportunity to not adopt the same level of reinvention.
One significant area where “Frankenstein” encounters a challenge is pacing, particularly in the first act. The exposition and overall speed of the first act can be somewhat cumbersome, as it grapples with setting up the context, introducing characters, building some tension and establishing the central conflict. At times, the production struggles to find a balance between establishing itself and maintaining the audience’s engagement. This pacing issue, while noticeable in the early stages, gradually improves as the narrative gains momentum, particularly in the second act, where it finds a stronger sense of identity and examines some more profound ideas.
In conclusion, “Frankenstein” at Derby Theatre is a production that encapsulates the enduring fascination of Mary Shelley’s story while infusing it with contemporary relevance. Séan Aydon’s adaptation, despite some pacing challenges in the first act, effectively captures the core messages of the original while offering innovative perspectives. With standout performances from Cameron Robertson, Eleanor McLoughlin, and Basienka Blake, this production delves deep into the heart of “Frankenstein,” prompting profound reflection on the boundaries of science and morality. It is a captivating journey that encourages audiences to contemplate the pursuit of “perfection” and the consequences of unchecked scientific progress.
Frankenstein continues its tour of the UK. Ticket information available here.