canadian_turtle: (Sherlock || BC bw)
[personal profile] canadian_turtle
I saw the second preview of Frankenstein at the National Theatre last night which had Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature and Johnny Lee Miller in the role of Victor Frankenstein. We sat in the second row from the front (towards the left which was the best spot imho as most of the stuff happened on that side) and had an absolutely brilliant view of the stage and actors. Now I won't say just yet if I hated or loved it, because that'd be spoilers (see Sandra, you can read your flist without getting spoiled!) but if you don't mind and are interested in a somewhat longish and detailed report of the show just click the cut.

Fifteen minutes before the official start the stage wasn't empy. There was an artificial womb slowly moving on the rotating stage, something stirring inside of it: the Creature. It was lit up so his silhouette could be seen as the audience gets seated. Occasionally a clock bell chimes loudly as it hangs in the audience and anyone walking past can pull the rope. As the lights die down the Creature emerges from the pod, falling to the ground; naked and helpless. The next fifteen minutes of the play are spent watching him crawl over the stage, spazzing, trying to understand how his body works and moves, uncertainly standing up and taking his first awkward steps. The discovery was intense, raw and at a few points unintentionally funny and a bit too long. There is a mirrored ceiling covered in light bulbs that flash brightly several times, blinding the audience momentarily. As Victor Frankenstein walks on stage and sees his hideous creation he yells at him, throws a cloak over him and walks off.

I thought the next scene looked absolutely brilliant. A train with villagers dressed in steampunk outfits comes towards the audience, bright lights behind it, music of the Underworld blasting. It was completely irrelevant and out of place but that didn't take away from the fact that the scene in itself looked fantastic.

The Creature gets bullied away by the villagers and starts wandering further. He eventually finds kindness in the form of the old blind man De Lacey (Karl Johnson) who doesn't judge the Creature by the way he looks. There are some fantastic moments following that in which the Creature masters the skill of speech (an absolutely astonishing performance by Benedict) and sees and feels his first flakes of snow. These scenes in particular show how childlike and innocent he still is. Sadly after about a year has passed De Lacey wants to introduce the Creature to his son and daughter-in-law but as soon as they set eyes on him, they beat him and scare him off. He walks away muttering "you promised" referring to De Lacey's promise that his son and daughter-in-law would take him in and treat him kindly. Absolutely heartbreaking. In return, the Creature does what De Lacey's books have taught him: seek revenge. He burns down the farm and its inhabitants and goes to search for his creator to ask for the wife he has seen in a dream sequence, hoping that she would stop him from feeling lonely.

When he makes it back to Geneva he meets William, Victor's younger brother. He speaks to the boy for a while and eventually kills him to lure Victor (the Creature leaves pages of the diary that Victor left in the cloak he was covered with in the boat with William to show who's responsible for the child's death). In the next scene, the first proper one between Victor and the Creature, the Creature asks for an explanation as to why he was cast out and begs for a companion. Eventually, though reluctantly, Victor agrees to this request.

During the set change someone, which I assume to be the stage manager, came on stage apologising to the audience for the delay as there apparently was a problem with the set. It was all good though as this gave me time to stand up and stretch my legs which was much-needed what with the play having no interval and the seats being very cramped.

When the set did eventually change we saw part of the inside of the Frankenstein residence, the room was tilted giving it a fantastical feeling and it looked absolutely stunning. The scene was one between Victor and his father (George Harris) in which Victor was trying to convince his father that despite William's recent passing, and his own marriage to his cousin Elizabeth (Naomie Harris) coming up, he must leave for England to work. He neglects to mention the Creature or the truth behind the work he's planning. He sets up a laboratory in a remote place in Scotland and ropes two Scottish men (obvious comic relief) into helping him. They rob graves for the parts Victor needs to create his female creature - though they are led to believe he's working on a cure for a disease. When she is finished she looks absolutely stunning and the Creature is well pleased with the result. He begs Victor to animate her (because at that point she was still no more than a puppet and Victor her puppeteer) and while Victor says he will do so instead he cuts her up, ruining any future the Creature may have had with her.

Victor returns to Geneva and marries Elizabeth. Not for love, but to lure the Creature towards him so Victor can kill him once and for all. This is made apparent in a scene in the bedroom where Victor finally tells her about his creation and says that after he's killed it he'll "try to love her". As soon as Victor leaves the room the Creature jumps from underneath the bed and grabs Elizabeth. This results in the right half of the audience gasping loudly in shock/horror/surprise and the left half laughing in response to that (or at least that's what it seemed like what happened from my pov). Benedict must've been laying extremely still the entire time he was hiding under the bed by the way as sitting near the front we could see underneath it and not one moment did I realise he was there.

The first part of the scene between Elizabeth and the Creature was beautiful and immensely sad. She was the only person (besides De Lacey, but he was blind) showing him kindness and not judging him by the way he looks. She sees him as Victor's son and can really connect to him as she is desperate for a child herself. Elizabeth even offers to be the Creature's friend which makes it even more sad that at this point he's too broken and been hurt too much to be able to return this offer. Because, as he explains to Elizabeth, people have shown him how to hate and how to betray. And most recently Victor has shown him the human ability of lying. Because when the Creature told Elizabeth that he wouldn't hurt her he'd lied too. He rapes her and snaps her neck and as Victor bursts into the bed room it's already too late.

In the final scene we see the Creature travelling North and he is chased by a completely broken Victor. At one point it seems as if Victor's body finally gives away but the Creature rushes towards him, trying to revive Victor by feeding him wine and begging him to stay alive. The Creature can't grasp the concept of death, he doesn't even know if he can die himself, and he knows that without Victor he does not have a purpose. Just like Victor has no purpose without his creation. As Victor starts stirring again the Creature moves away and the chase continues.

Overall I enjoyed Frankenstein but I also found it less amazing as I had thought and hoped it would be. Benedict's performance of the Creature (the heart and soul of the play) was undoubtedly the best part. Very intense and physical and it was just astonishing to see his Creature evolve from a newborn and cast away with no speech or knowledge to an intelligent being. I also liked De Lacey and Elisabeth, but other than that the characters were mostly poorly acted and/or very bland. Even Frankenstein felt not quite there yet, which I'm not sure is because of Johnny Lee Miller's performance or the dialogue he was fed. Johnny's wig was awesome and fluffy though, I'll give him that. The script was quite bad in places and while the special effects were amazing there was also a horrible rotten eggs stench which was particularly bad for those of us seated near the front. The music was brilliant though as were the fantastical and creative sets. And I hope that viewing the play a few more times I'll see it evolve into something better. Regardless, I can not wait until I have the opportunity to see the roles reversed, I am especially curious to see if Benedict manages to make Victor more dimensional than he was last night.

Obviously we made our way to the stage door afterwards and while waiting for Benedict we saw several people going in amongst which Alan Carr, Richard Curtis and Vinette Robinson (or Sally Sherlock as she was called as we didn't know her real name *hangs head in shame*). During the wait for Ben I managed to get signatures from Mark Gatiss and Catherine Tate again (as Season's Greetings is still running) and I got my Frankenstein programme signed by George Harris (also Kingsley Shacklebolt in Harry Potter) and Karl Johnson. Also saw Rebecca Hall come out but did not have anything for her to get signed (next time I'm bringing a notebook!). When Sally Sherlock Vinette came out I asked if I could have a picture with her which seemed to take her completely by surprise but she did not seem to mind, so yay that's the fifth Sherlock actor in my collection! I really regretted not having my DVD on me though as she would've been a cool addition on it as well (will not stagedoor without it again!).

Benedict came out at about 11.15 and was looking visibly tired after his performance. It was very sweet of him that he came out at all as he left his bike helmet inside and after he was done signing things disappeared through another exit so he solely came out of the stage door for the people waiting on him <3 I got my programme signed as well as my copy of Equity magazine with him on the cover and when we asked for a picture he said he'd rather not because he was tired, which was completely understandable. Highly annoying though were the people who still begged him for one as, polite as he is, he obliged to a few (though with obvious hesitation shown on his face and with each picture backing more towards the door).

Also, just to show how physical the role of the Creature actually is (or how serious Benedict takes his role - as I have obviously got no idea how Johnny will perform it): as a result of the crawling around and extreme and awkward movements that come with the performance of the character he has cuts on his feet and legs and last night alone popped two joints in his wrist and had a back spasm! Or as he summarised it "Suffering for Danny Boyle". It's very admirable that he continues to give such a physical performance regardless, but poor guy <3

Date: 2011-02-08 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you so much for a review like this, I loved reading it (since I'll never get to see it hahah). Sounds like an overall great and interesting play. Can't wait to hear more of your thoughts when you've seen the role reversal.

Are there any promos for the play by the way, like photos or trailers? I haven't found anything at all from my googling but I'm terribly curious.

Jealous of your celebrity sightings again, naturally.

Date: 2011-02-08 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you enjoyed it! If I don't type it up straight away it always takes ages to put an update like this together because my memory is crap, but I really didn't feel like typing it up when I got home at 1am, lol

The National Theatre website should have rehearsal and production stills up soon. There are no trailers, but do you know of NT Live? They're broadcasting Frankenstein twice across the world (March 17 and 24 iirc), showing the actors in both parts. Surely there's a cinema near you showing it? :D

Date: 2011-02-09 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh my god whoa, never heard of NT Live but apparently there will be one show in Helsinki on March 17th. And in my favorite cinema too, lol. It's definitely not near me and the train ride is expensive hahah, but I need to look into this. Thank you so much!

Date: 2011-02-09 12:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No problem :D You're lucky that Helsinki is getting the performance on the 17th as that's the one with Ben as the Creature (on the 24th Johnny has that part). Hope you manage to see it!

Date: 2011-02-09 10:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you are any closer to Turku or Tampere than Helsinki, it will also be screened in their Finnkino theatres. (I'm guessing Oulu is out of the question for you...)

Finnkino should have done a better job advertising the NT Live shows, IMHO.

Date: 2011-02-09 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh that's brilliant. Sadly I live in Lappeenranta so Tampere and Turku are even further away, but to be honest I might even be in Tampere during that time if I'm lucky so it's either that or Helsinki. Thanks. :)

Yeah they really should. I know they were doing that for certain operas for example, but I had never even heard of NT Live. Then again we don't have FinnKino here so I'm not familiar with it, but you'd think people would be interested from all over the country, especially when it comes to certain plays.

Date: 2011-02-09 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For out-of-towners the problem is that the screenings start at 21.00 and finish at around midnight. :(

I don't know you and you don't know me, but if you happen to be in Tampere for the screening and get stuck without a place to stay, I could lend you my sofabed for the night. PM me if need be.

Apologies to canadian_turtle for hijacking the post.

Date: 2011-02-09 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, that's a good point.

Dammit, I just checked that even if I was in Tampere to take the entrance exam despite my half-assed pre-tasks, it would be a completely different week. But nevertheless thank you so much! :) I wish I could visit Tampere again, though. Haven't been there in ages despite having friends and family there.

And lol, yeah. Sorry Zarina!

Date: 2011-02-09 01:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I scanned elements of the programme here:

(The Creature looks nothing like the Jonny Lee Miller picture that was previously released).

The National is the luvviest stage door ever - I have yet to go and not see another actor randomly there.
Edited Date: 2011-02-09 01:15 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-09 03:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sweet! Thanks for the link.

Hahah I love that. I need to do that too whenever I manage to go to London.

Date: 2011-02-10 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're welcome! And yeah last night Ruth Wilson and Harriet Walter were at the stage door. Its the sort of place where other actors congregate.

Date: 2011-02-08 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I did get Sally's name right! Yay! I said I remember things better when Benedict's said them. (He should totally do revision guides - people would listen to them endlessly and never forget anything.)

The play does belong to the Creature. 'Giving him back his voice' does seem to have cost others somewhat, but if anyone can eke more out of the Victor role, it's Benedict.

Johnny's wig was awesome and fluffy though, I'll give him that.


The interviewer who referred to Benedict as 'possibly the politest person I have ever met' wasn't wrong. I do wish no-one would take advantage of that.

See you tomorrow!

P.S.: Benedict and his sheep are here. (
Edited Date: 2011-02-08 11:48 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-09 12:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Did you actually say Vinette as well? I don't remember I have ever heard the name before I read it in IMDB today. But go you and your Cumberbatch indoctrinated memory!!

I think the Victor role can be so much more awesome and I'm hoping Ben will prove me right.

Well it was!! I thought he looked soooo much hotter with than without.

I agree, it's really annoying though because it can also put him off coming out to sign things in the future.

You'll be a few hours earlier, right? I can meet you in the Waterloo area at 1.30pm if you like?

Haha oh men. On the one hand I'm disappointed they're not real sheep (in my head I saw him running around with a flock of them around him!), on the other... what the hell? Why was he carrying around a sheep?

Date: 2011-02-09 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yep, after several attempts, that was the name I settled on - although I did still think it might be wrong.

He'll nail it. I have faith.

It's funny, 'cos it's true. ;D

Just so. At least it wasn't only demanding people there. Hopefully he can focus on that.

Trains permitting, I should be able to get to Waterloo for about 1.45pm. I'll text if I get stuck.

He's not quite Little Ben Peep, but it is cute. They had sheep and bales of hay on the red carpet - they must have brought out his inner shepherd. *g*

Date: 2011-02-09 10:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I thought the wig was really quite brilliant, is it bad that I want him to wear it if I ever see him at the stagedoor? A bald picture just won't do!

Alright, I'll try to aim for the same time.

I'm quite disappointed to hear he just grabbed that sheep from the red carpet, I was hoping he made the conscious descision to take a sheep with him to the premiere :P

Date: 2011-02-09 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love that you both adore the wig. I thought it was dreadful and was clearly uncomfortable to wear as he was sweating like fury through it. I'm wondering if he might be a difficult sig to get.

And yup Applebeing did indeed get Sally Sherlock's name although as I prefer it she will now forever be Sally Sherlock to me. Shame we weren't there last night - Louise Brealey was there!

Next to the photo of him in the muppet t-shirt (which are of course just cropped versions of our pics with him!) him and the daft sheep are the most popular pictures on the site! God knows why - and he needs to bin that jacket - he's worn it to at least 3 different events. He probably hates my site actually - it shows how often he and Olivia re-wear their favourite clothes!

Date: 2011-02-21 09:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They're always heavily perspiring I don't think it's fair to blame the wig. Idk, I guess I prefer anything over the bald look really.

He's a guy, I am not sure if he cares for people noticing that he re-wears his clothes :P

Date: 2011-02-23 03:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like it that they have favorite clothes, it's such a normal thing.

Date: 2011-02-09 12:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How interesting to see a play while they're still working out the kinks. Are you going to go back a little later in its run?

Date: 2011-02-09 12:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I usually go to a play in the previews because they're cheaper and thus far it never made much of a difference (only slight differences here and there). A lot has to change for this play to improve drastically and I don't think that'll happen, but I think it might grow on me over rewatches as well.

Does next week count as later on? Ha. I'm not 100% sure yet I'm going to go but a friend of mine from the Netherlands will be in London then and I'll try to day ticket if possible.

Date: 2011-02-09 12:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
oh this was a beautiful and detailed recount of it! i am seeing it tomorrow night and this has made me UNABLE TO SLEEP TONIGHT aaaahh! i cannot wait to see Benedict play this role as the creature, if your recount of it has got me this excited i may die in the actual thing ahah!

but poor benedict! the man is so dedicated to his roles!

Date: 2011-02-09 10:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am sure you'll have a fabulous time as Ben will still be the Creature tonight and he definitely steals the show.

He sure is <3

Date: 2011-02-09 04:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for sharing your impressions and that lovely picture of Vinette! You're really collecting the Sherlock cast. :)

I hope the major faults you noticed do get improved. I'm now very impatient to see how Benedict tackles Victor! Thanks again.

Date: 2011-02-09 10:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're very welcome! (and I really hope Anderson is next, ha!)

I'm sure they'll patch some things up and the cast will hopefully get a better grasp of their parts come opening night as well. There are plenty performances before then :)

Date: 2011-02-09 10:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yay you and your celeb spottings! That sounds like an amazing evening. And it makes me regret not having gotten tickets for that show. Ah well, we'll be in London in the weekend and from what I've heard they're not playing over the weekends (that's right, right? Or else I'm upset!). LOL!

Love you picture with Sally Sherlock ;). Have you ever managed to be in a pic with Rupert Graves?

Date: 2011-02-09 10:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Which weekend are you coming over? They ARE playing at weekends for as far as I am aware and it's always a good thing to keep an eye on the website ( as return tickets will become available again. Actually, just had a look and holy crap tickets for nearly every date right now!!

No, I haven't (so far I have: Benedict, Martin, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss and Vinette) and I can't believe I forgot about Rupert again I rather have Lestrade next over Anderson!

Edited because on reread I notice I called Rupert Rubert, er...
Edited Date: 2011-02-09 01:10 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-11 11:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm coming over for the weekend of the 18th of February. :) Didn't know they had weekend shows :O :O
Just checked the site (thanks for the link!) but there don't seem to be any tickets left :(. Do you have any idea what a 'day ticket' is? Is that one of those returned tickets, or is it a different kind of ticket?

Mmmmm Lestrade <3 How could you forget about him!! *is in shock* ;)

Date: 2011-02-11 12:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Keep checking, every morning when I log on I see tickets for some dates avilable (I'm assuming they're releasing them in batches).

I'm day ticketing for the 15th and it's not the same. You have to queue in the morning in front of the NT and buy your ticket at 9.30am when it opens. If you're front of the queue you get front row (excellent!) tickets, otherwise back of the slips and stalls. Tickets are 12 quid each but you likely have to queue early. I'm aiming to be there betweenm 6.30-7am on the 15th and that is a work day. In the weekend more people will have the opportunity to queue.

You can also try to get a return ticket, which go on sale I think 45 minutes before the show on the second level (where the theatre is) there's a desk and a row of seats along the window to queue in. No idea how long in advance people sit there though, it's worth asking the NT over e-mail what it's been like the past few days.

I know, I know. I'm still having my head in shame...

Date: 2011-02-16 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I didn't read all of this, so as not to get spoiled for when I hopefully see it, but thanks so much for writing this all up and giving me a bit of an idea of what to look forward to if I do go :)

Date: 2011-02-16 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You're very welcome :) I hope you get to see it! I actually saw it a second time last night (to see the roles reversed) and I enjoyed it even moreso than I did before.

Date: 2011-02-17 08:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey hun! *waves*

Finally able to read this now that I've seen the play, although with the roles reversed obviously.

It was lovely to meet you on Tuesday by the way, I enjoyed talking to you about the play and about Ben and the other actors that you've met. I hope we get a chance to meet up again at some point. :)

Date: 2011-02-18 08:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah I haven't had time yet to make a write-up of the other way around. nyway, it was really great (albeit far too short!) seeing you too! I do hope you get to see Benedict as the Creature as well for the complete Frankenstein experience ;)

Date: 2011-02-18 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah I haven't had time yet to make a write-up of the other way around.

Well I'll briefly write about it but it's not going to be in great detail I don't think, more just general impressions.

it was really great (albeit far too short!) seeing you too!

Awww thanks. :)

I do hope you get to see Benedict as the Creature as well for the complete Frankenstein experience ;)

Oh I've already made my mind up that it's definitely happening. And if I'm very lucky, I might go for a Day Ticket to see him as Victor again, as I want to see the prettiness once more! LOL

Date: 2011-02-21 09:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I finally made a brief write-up! (only took most of the week, er...)

Excellent! Do you know yet around which date you want to see it again? It's also worth it to keep an eye on the website as new tickets (returns I suppose) get posted daily:

Date: 2011-02-23 08:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sorry for the late reply my dear, just been busy this week.

I don't have a specific date for seeing it again yet. It really depends on a few things:

1. Waiting for them to release who'll be playing The Creature/Victor each day for those extra performances.

2. Whether I decide to go for a matinee Creature Performance or an evening one.

Are Matinee performances any different to the normal ones? Do they cut anything out cause it's earlier?

See, what I'd really love to do, is come down for an evening performance of Ben playing the Creature, stay over & then queue early for a Day Ticket (preferably for one of the front rows) to see him as Victor again the next night. I'd love to see him in those Victor outfits again, plus I could stage door on the 2nd night, as it doesn't take him so long to leave when he's been Victor. I could then go home early on the 3rd day.

However, I could only do that if I had enough money for a room for 2 nights or had someone who'd let me crash at theirs. Otherwise, it'll have to be a Matinee Creature performance, home on the same day and then keeping my fingers crossed that I might get back to see him as Victor again, before the play ends.

I'll have to see. Tickets aren't on sale until the 10th March, so I've got time to decide.


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