The summer weather in Geneva was rotten in 1816 and five house-bound friends, three of whom were Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his 19 year-old wife Mary, told ghost stories to each other until it stopped raining. Mary’s story is the one that later became the Gothic novel, Frankenstein. She said her aim was to write a book, “which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror done to make a reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart.”
The religious sounding unaccompanied individual chant before the start and during the interval seems inappropriate, in no way indicative of what is to happen. The sets, designed by director, Kerrin White, worked well in their representation
The Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s play is an adaptation of that novel with differences created by author Nick Dear which make it possible to stage this tale that ranges widely throughout Europe. It starts after scientist Victor Frankenstein has by means of long experimentation, alchemy, electricity and science, created a man. When the curtain opens to the sound of a heart-beat, there he is, this naked man just as he becomes conscious, tied to a large wooden disc from which, after removing a giant “afterbirth”, he breaks free and drops to the ground. What follows is extraordinary.
Steven Parker, the nameless Monster, can grunt but that’s about it. He finds he can sit then crawl, stand and then walk in a truly fascinating segment of endeavour, failure and success. He is a big man and he’s been made grotesque by clever make-up (Liana Krassas and Tyson Alsfod) and when Dr. Frankenstein walks in and sees him he is so appalled and repelled, he runs away in terror. First and foremost, Steven Parker’s representation of the Monster is remarkable. His performance alone is worth the cost of the ticket (and some) to see this show. This monster is fury let loose, untrammelled revenge and lonely rejection. But he is also understandable, intelligent, logical and yes, likeable at times. It is difficult to praise highly enough this man’s performance. Go to see this show and I think you will never forget it.
All praise too to the Adelaide Repertory Theatre, under the direction of Kerrin White, for having the courage to put it on. When we are told it “contains nudity, violence and scenes of a sexual nature” they are not trifling and they shy from none of that. The story is one for all times and certainly for our own. It gets into the mind of those in our community who, for whatever reason they are different, are rejected and/or feared. It shows what kindness can do through blind Delacey, very well played by Tom Carney and it says that people who live without love, have no basis on which to build happy lives. It shows that, left to fester, rejection over and over again creates wounds that, in the case of the Monster, can only be assuaged, by violence.
What the performance lacks is warmth from some of the “normal” people towards each other. Husband and wife (Brad Martin and Tarsha Cameron) are written to be loving but they just appear to be acting as does Tarsha as the loving maid of Elizabeth and William’s father (Tom Carney) seems to be not deeply affected by his youngest son’s death. That he can’t reach out to Victor is understandable, since Victor shies away from him and those who love him, Elizabeth for instance. Rosie Williams almost gets there in the scene where she tries to get Victor to stay with her but in love? No – it just doesn’t come through. The first act tends to be sluggish and only really comes to life when the Monster is on stage. As Victor Frankenstein, Patrick Clements isn’t quite convincing as the triumphant scientist, the torn and guilty man whose lack of responsibility has caused such pain, the man who calls his creation “a filthy mass of nothing” and the misogynist who cannot love. Act Two brings the action to life, has a quicker pace and increases the tension. The Scottish scene with the introduction of Ewan (Brad Martin) and the Constable (Dylan O’Donnell) is delightful. However, overall, the “thrilling horror done to make a reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart” is not there. This play has several layers. Apart from the issues about social justice, it reflects the fear of latent revolution already seen in France and America born, some thought, by increasing knowledge and infant attempts at basic education which many thought to be dangerous and, apropos that, this is a Monster but a very intelligent one. But at a visceral level, it should be well, just more scary and the difference between love and revengeful hate made clearer by making the love more powerful.
Go to see it. Steven Parker will entrance you.
Adelaide Repertory Theatre presents
by Nick Dear
Director Kerrin White
Venue: Arts Theatre | Angas Street, Adelaide
Dates: 5 – 22 April 2018
Tickets: $17 – $22
Bookings: 8212577 | www.adelaiderep.com