Left – Lee Jones. Cover – Andrew Henry. Photos – Heidrun Lohr
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not conventionally what we might refer to as a timeless work of literature. It is clearly a product of its time, fashioned from the particular obsessions of its age and demonstrating the changing view of science that characterised the early nineteenth century. It is true that the themes of Frankenstein have made it relevant through the generations, but Nick Dear’s script is a sublime theatrical blueprint that draws the focus to those themes that truly resonate in our age.
Lee Jones tackles the role of Frankenstein’s creation with an amazing energy. He approaches a long exposition with no dialogue beautifully and shows the growth and development of a man born as an adult reasonably well. There are perhaps some timing issues with this as the ebb and flow of his development seems somewhat curtailed, but this is made up for with an energy that engages the entire auditorium.
This is the core strength of this production. The unnamed creation of Frankenstein is the life and soul of this play, and he shines. Jones’ very physical performance in the early moments of the play elicits the necessary empathy to drive the plot throughout. In fact, despite a fine performance by Andrew Henry as Frankenstein, the play loses a little of its verve at around the two-thirds point where the focus shifts away from the creation to Frankenstein himself. I don’t think Henry can be held responsible for this; it is perhaps a minor flaw in Dear’s script that the creation leaves the stage for so long, having established such a strong presence.
A strong supporting cast enhances the achievements of the two central characters. They change roles and present a broad range of characters from Shelley’s novel. Katie Fitchett in particular delivered an engaging performance as Elizabeth, and Heather Stratford’s cello, taking an almost central position on the stage, has a presence that practically presents a character on its own.
The set transforms remarkably, with relatively little moving elements. A shiny black circle in the centre of a matt black stage is enclosed as need be by a ring of curtains, which, in differing positions create a very different atmosphere on stage. Sound effects beyond Stratford’s mellifluous cello are provided by actors in the shadows, but nonetheless visible to the audience, and the artifice of stagecraft is at once visible and unobtrusive, enhancing the atmosphere of the piece beautifully.
What Nick Dear’s script does brilliantly is to draw focus onto those elements of Shelley’s story that truly resonate in the twenty-first century. The humanity of Frankenstein’s creation and its experience of life sit at the centre, with the moral wavering of Frankenstein himself pushed to the side. Life’s pursuits, and our failings in pursuing them, become the centre, and Frankenstein’s creation is as human in this regard as Frankenstein himself.
This is a fine production of a modern masterpiece, and not to be missed.
The Street Theatre presents an Ensemble Theatre production
by Nick Dear
Directed by Mark Kilmurry
Venue: The Street Theatre | 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Dates: May 7 – 11, 2013
Tickets: $45 – $35
Bookings: 6247 1223