Friday, 25 March 2011

Theatrical Interlude 4 (and 5)

Frankenstein (National Theatre Live at Cinema City) 17th and 24th March.

This play is one of the biggest hits in London currently and in recognition of this the National Theatre filmed the stage production and made it available in cinemas world wide. Twice.

They did it twice because there are two versions of the play. In some shows Creature is played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Victor Frankenstein by Johnny Lee Miller and in others the casting is reversed. I was lucky enough to get tickets to each version.

On March 17th the casting was as above and I thought the play amazing. Danny Boyle and Nick Dear (director and playwright) have retold the story from the Creature's point of view and the intensity of Cumberbatch's Creature was incredible, while Lee Miller's mad scientist was a good foil to his creation.

The production was so good that I was a little unsure about going to see the play again on the 24th. This performance wasn't actually broadcast live in the cinema but had been recorded in front of a proper, paying audience but this time with the 'reverse' cast.

I needn't have worried - it was better.

Creature's development seemed more rounded - he was very convincing as a creation, a being that might have a new body but has a fully functioning adult brain. He learned to control his body as quickly as he learned speech and human characteristics. I much preferred this version, he managed to be part human, part monster throughout but to rationalise why this was so, where as the previous week, in hindsight, Creature was far more apologetic. The climactic scene in this version was also more brutal and less coy.

Cumberbatch's Frankenstein was more effective too - for me he really inhabited the part of an obsessed scientist, there was no awkwardness about it he just *was* Frankenstein where as Lee Miller was just acting the part.

I think that part of the differences in Creature were explained in the small making of feature that aired before the play. Lee Miller had studied his son intensively for the role and his Creature grew like a child, gaining in confidence, whereas Cumberbatch had visited stroke patients and people recovering from brain injuries for his inspiration and thus, for me, his Creature only grew a certain amount physically and always remained unsteady and nervous in gait.

The rest of the cast were also very good and there are little touches of humour throughout which balance out the intensity wonderfully. I'm really not too sure about the Steampunk train though...

The staging, lighting and music made the experiences fully immersing and while at first it was a little disconcerting to only see what the director wanted you to see I quickly forgot this and became immersed in the story. I will certainly try to get to more of the National Theatre's Live performances.

I am looking forward to seeing the play at the theatre in a couple of weeks so as to experience the whole staging.

all photos and image taken from the National Theatre website

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