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[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
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