Frankenstein - All About Shelley

As an avid and passionate (sometimes overly-so) fan of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, I felt a compulsion to attend a viewing of Rona Munro’s adaption of Shelley’s classic story at the Marlowe Theatre. I had managed to obtain £10 tickets for the show using the Marlowe’s Discovery Scheme, which offers discounted tickets for people aged 16-26-years old. My seat was in Row C, the third from the stage, giving an excellent view of the beautiful staging. A collection of white furniture including walls, books, and leafless trees revealed little about what would happen in the production.

The play began as expected, true to the opening of the novel. However, it was soon interrupted by Mary Shelley (Eilidh Loan) making clear that this would not be a conventional linear adaption of Frankenstein. The production played out with Shelley serving as a narrator. One of the highlights of the production was the intertwined character progression of Shelley and Victor Frankenstein (Ben Castle Gibb). Creating interesting parallels between the two, served to highlight the stark differences between their traits and the progression of the character’s individuality.

The choice of Shelley as narrator and character leads to a quirky and revealing take on the novel. Her struggle is shown, and she blatantly points out the theme of the danger of ambition, though not at all in a forced manner. She comes across as a genuinely interesting woman, with her and the Monster serving as the most fascinating characters. One of the most intriguing choices is Shelley’s ability to interact with none of the characters but the Creature, making clear he is as much of her creation as he is Victor’s.

With no set changes and a cast of seven, the play uses its constraints intelligently, with actors serving multiple roles and utilising the entire stage, climbing from lower levels to upper levels via the fake trees and an upside-down tree which lowers to resemble the infamous lightning strike which brings the Monster (Michael Moreland) to life. Lighting and sound are also used to great impact, making me jump a fair few times throughout the play. The choice to give the Monster a reverb in his voice was an excellent sound design choice, making the character seem truly powerful and inhuman.

Overall, the play was thoroughly enjoyable. Though somewhat unsure of it at the beginning, it soon gripped me and told a beautiful story, with the themes from the novel shining through perfectly. In a scape rife with Frankenstein adaptions that lack the depth and meaning of the novel, this play is one for fans of the book.