This week, thanks to NT Live, I finally got round to seeing the critically acclaimed 2011 National Theatre production of Frankenstein. In case you’re unaware, this production (based on the novel by Mary Shelley) was directed by Danny Boyle and starred both Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller who alternated in the roles of Frankenstein and the Creature. On this occasion, I enjoyed Miller’s Creature and Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein.
Everyone knows the general premise of Frankenstein … right? – a man (Frankenstein) scientifically generates a fully evolved ‘creature’ who is able to achieve the mental and physical capacity of ‘man’. It’s a play that evokes a lot of questions relevant to modern society.
By trying to reach the pinnacle of science or medicine are we meddling too much into the role of nature? The problem is we, as the human race, have a desire to find out everything we possibly can, but how much knowledge is too much knowledge? We don’t know till it’s too late.
Furthermore, it raises points about equality. Should we strive for equality of opportunity irrespective of where we come from, how we’re made or what we look like? Do you cut people slack for their evil actions if they’ve not been given an equal start in life?
These questions are timeless. This play is always relevant.
This Production of Frankenstein
The two leads were sublime. Jonny Lee Miller played the creature with an incredibly intense physicality, his characterisation constantly changing as the creature learnt from his surroundings. It would be easy to play this role in a grotesque manner, but Miller brought a likeable vulnerability to the creature. I was in serious awe of his performance.
Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein was in some ways quite similar to his Sherlock, by that I guess I mean that the characters are quite similar in personality. I thought he did a great job, but would be very, very, interested to see him play the creature.
The rest of the cast put in solid performances (except perhaps the guy playing Frankenstein’s father who was wooden throughout … though not bad enough to name names!). The production was visually impressive, the versatile set was beautifully created. It’s a play with quite a number of different locations, but there was a good sense of continuity between the different sets – the production had a great, natural, feel to it – they made use of lots of fire, water and light.
My Verdict on Frankenstein
I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I like plays that make me think about topical issues long after I’ve left the theatre (or cinema!) and this production definitely delivered in that area. Given that the performances of the leads were exceptional, I’ll definitely be back to see Cumberbatch’s creature if any future encore screenings materialise.