Frankenstein Review

Jack Studio Theatre 26 September – 21 October.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick


Arrows & Traps new adaptation of Frankenstein breathes new life into the classic story with style and sensitivity. Writer/director Ross McGregor and dramaturg Kate Bannister have steered clear of all clichés and created a fresh, often funny, and insightful vision by interweaving the story of Mary Shelley’s life with her novel.

Beginning with an older Mary returning from a disappointing theatrical production of Frankenstein, Shelley’s life is seen in flashbacks. The circumstances of her own birth and her fractious relationship with her sisters and disapproving father, her love for Shelley and her devastating losses as a mother are all there. This cleverly shows the parallels between Shelley’s life and the characters’ without overstressing the point, and adds a deeper sense of melancholy to the story. The creature’s storyline and Victor Frankenstein’s storyline run alongside Shelley’s. Only Victor’s story runs chronologically, with his youthful scientific zeal galvanising after the death of his mother into the quest for creating life. The creature’s story begins with his meeting with blind Agatha, giving the audience a chance to form an attachment to the innocent and sweet creature that makes the stunning creation scene at the end of act one much more brutal and unnerving.

With most of the cast playing multiple roles, and the switches between storylines and times, this could have been an unmitigated disaster, but the transitions are seamless. The cast, lighting, sound and subtle costume changes make it instantly clear what is going on, and keep the play’s pace from flagging between scenes. Odin Corie gives the characters from the novel a cool steampunk vibe, contrasting with a more romanticised Victorian feel to Mary’s family.

Cornelia Baumann is a safe pair of hands for the pivotal role of Mary Shelley. Her commanding stage presence is needed as she is hardly ever off stage. Her expressions as she watches her creations interact are wonderful. Even when the spotlight isn’t on her, she never gives less than her best. Christopher Tester’s Victor is intense and otherworldly, and Will Pinchin is phenomenal as the creature. As resident movement director with Arrows & Traps, you’d expect an impressive physical performance, but he will blow your mind. Beginning as a mewling, childlike figure, his scenes with Zoe Dales as Agatha are delightful as his speech and personality evolve, and he is terrifying as he becomes a true monster in his revenge. Just glorious.

Whether you have read Frankenstein many times, or a green flat headed monster is all that springs to mind – go and see this production. It will make you fall in love with this phenomenal story all over again.