Wednesday, March 30, 2011


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I recently attended a televised showing of "Frankenstein", put on by the National Theater in London, and directed by Danny Boyle. With a book written by Nick Dear, and based on Mary Shelley's novel, this theatrical representation of the Gothic novel stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in alternating roles as Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, and it made for a truly engaging night. We were lucky enough to be treated to a pre-show discourse - highlighting the directors'/actors'/literary types' views on the original novel and the adaptation, it was the sort of film that surely would have been looped in the theater's foyer while patrons milled about sipping cocktails before curtain. It certainly set up the show effectively, however, as both Miller and Cumberbatch highlighted their take on the roles of, respectively, the Creature and Frankenstein, which were the same roles our taped version of the play found them in. NYU offered a second viewing of the role reversal but as we had only purchased one set of tickets I am, unfortunately, unable to compare the two. 
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Boyle's adaptation of Shelley's novel skirted gently along several of the standard discussion topics of this story - landing heavily on neither Man-Playing-God nor the question of what is it to be human, although very much representing the Creature as the victim of his situation. Such tends to be the case, both in film representations of the novel and in other theatrical endeavors, but it must be stated that without Miller's endearing take on the Creature, it may have been easy to see him as strictly that, sans the human elements that  made the Creature's fate so heartbreaking. Cumberbatch's Frankenstein felt a bit more one-dimensional. Egotistical and driven to prove his dominance over the intelligence of his fellow-man even as this drive destroyed all that defines one as human - family, love, empathy for your fellow man, Cumberbatch made it hard to sympathize with Frankenstein's end-game, and whether that was a conscientious decision on his part or the director's, it did not make for equality in what is essentially a 2-character storyline.
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In sum, I just have to say that the chance to have seen this performance live would have been nothing short of breathtaking. In the theater, once the film stopped rolling, the audience clapped right along with the telecast London audience, and we even followed in their footsteps with an encore curtain call. With delightful actors, fluid sets, and strong direction, the National Theater's "Frankenstein" made for a not-to-be-missed night.
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"Frankenstein" is produced by the National Theater in London, located at South Bank, London SE1 9PX, and plays at the Olivier Theater  through May 2, 2011. It has a running time of 2 hours, without an intermission, and tickets can by purchased by calling +44 (0)20 7 452 3000 or emailing

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