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Mr Monkey sees Frankenstein at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Venue : Royal Exchange Theatre
Start date: 9th March 2018
End date : 14th April 2018
Visit date : 13th March 2018
Shane Zaza as Victor Frankenstein (production photo by Johan Persson)
Misguided scientist Victor Frankenstein regretting almost everything he did at Ingolstadt University (Production photo by Johan Persson)
Mr Monkey looking at the poster for Frankenstein
Mr Monkey looking at the poster for Frankenstein
Harry Attwell as the Creature (production photo by Johan Persson)
A face that not even a misguided scientist could love - the Creature (Harry Attwell) (Production photo by Johan Persson)

Mr Monkey took the 192 into Manchester and scurried along to the press night of Frankenstein at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

This production of Frankenstein uses a new adaptation, by April De Angelis, of Mary Shelley's 100 year old novel. It follows Shelley's story quite closely, starting off aboard an ice-bound ship commanded by Captain Walton. Walton is feeling a bit lonely - not one of the crew are educated enough to be his friend - and is quite pleased when an apparently decent but disturbed man appears out of the mist and is welcomed aboard. Victor Frankenstein, the wanderer, tells Walton of how he tried to defeat the great evil of death by creating a beautiful creature from body parts obtained from churchyards and charnel houses. Unfortunately, the beautiful creature turns out be hideous the moment it is brought to life. Fortunately, the creature runs away when faced with Frankenstein's revulsion.

Frankenstein is called home when family members are murdered or or hanged for murder; wandering on a mountain to seek solitude Frankenstein meets his creature again. The creature, who now has a wide vocabulary, explains he holds Frankenstein responsible for the way in which he is shunned by every human he ever met and intends to slaughter anyone vaguely related to his creator. He does add that he'll go and live in South America if Frankenstein will make a female creature to live with him. Frankenstein agrees, then changes his mind, which really, really annoys the creature.

The stage is plain, just a flat area of floorboarding. Initially it's the deck of Walton's ship, with mighty ropes tethering the sails in place; thereafter scenery is brought on or dug up to represent various houses, streets and mountains. Later in the play there are rainstorms in the centre of the stage, some scenery is set on fire, and there are a lot of flashing lights and sudden blackouts. There is a threatening soundscape throughout.

The acting is excellent. Shane Zaza as Victor Frankenstein is onstage for most of the play, and he is very good as a man on the edge of madness. He is ably supported by Ryan Gage, whose Captain Walton provides much of the humour by his resolutely rational and optimistic Englishness. Harry Attwell is very good as the Cresture, but is possibly hampered by his dramatic costume and make up. Shanaya Rafaat, Esther McAuley, Nicola Sloane, Gerard McDermott and Colin Ryan play sixteen roles of varying importance between them. All these characters, even those with only a few lines are played excellently. Mr Monkey was especially impressed by the fleeting appearance of Professors Krempe and Waldeman of Ingolstadt University, who appeared to be living Gillray caricatures.

Mr Monkey found this adaptation of Frankenstein dramatic and quite scary at times, but also funny in places. Of course, some of the laughter from the audience could have been a little nervous. Somehow it's worse when a character who has been comic relief throughout is horribly murdered by the creature than when more serious victims die.

Going back to the original text does mean the some speeches are a little preachy and long winded; the creature does tend to be a bit prolix at times, but he genuinely does have a lot to say. Usually when Mr Monkey sees or hears an adaptation of Frankenstein, he feels sorry for the creature. This time he didn't pity him quite so much, probably due to seeing all the killings happen onstage and relatively close up. Mr Monkey still thinks Victor Frankenstein is a little dim for not noticing how ugly his beautiful creature was until too late.

Mr Monkey really enjoyed the combination of horror and humour in this production of Frankenstein, and recommends it to everyone with an interest in dramatic horror.

Frankenstein runs until 14th April 2018.

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