Image: The Space
Elixabeth frankenstein - Danielle Winter
The Creature - Elizabeth Schenk
Henry Cerval / ensemble - Carlton Venn
Justine Moritz / ensemble - Charlotte Peak
The Captain / ensemble - Sarah Lawrie
Burn Bright Theatre return to the Space this Spring with a visceral, feminist new version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
A brilliant scientist.
An extraordinary imagination.
A boundary that shouldn't be crossed.
In the darkness of night, Elizabeth Frankenstein manages the unthinkable - creating sentient life.
As the resulting monster is shunned by her maker, she is cast out into the violent and unfeeling world beyond.
But a terrible chain of murder and horror is unleashed, both creation and creator must come face to face in a final, terrible showdown.
Featuring the trademark brand of ensemble theatre and live music, ideas of gender and power are brought to life in a new retelling of history's greatest horror story.
In days when women still struggle to get just equality in terms of employment opportunities and pay (among many other elements in our modern society) it's amazing to consider that it was a woman (Mary Shelley) who, back in the era of male-dominated society that was the early 1800s, wrote the remarkable novel, Frankenstein, that has subsequently captivated the world.
It was also a time when science was in the dark, exploratory days of its infancy, wrestling to understand even basic scientific concepts such as magnetism and electricity, which we now merely take for granted.
More amazingly, Mary Shelley was just 18 years of age when she started writing the work that turned out to be light years ahead of its time.
Rightly, Burn Bright Theatre and director Katherine Timms turn the tables here in the gender department, making the daring scientist Elizabeth Frankenstein (Danielle Winter) and additionally making the monster a female as well, played by Elizabeth Schenk.
In Isabel Dixon's excellently dramatised reworking of this famous tale, proceedings kick-off on a ship in the arctic which has inadvertently stumbled upon a half-dead Elizabeth Frankenstein who, once semi-recovered, begins to tell her story of how she created a monster from body parts, a spot of alchemy and a rather larger dose of what sounds uncannily like magic spells or incantations.
Actually, given scientific knowledge around 1818, magic incantations might have been more useful than anything else if you were going to set about creating life at that time.
Katherine Timms adopts a style for her production that is most certainly inventive, but is not entirely unique in its approach - I've seen a large number of productions - including a fine one of Great Expectations at Merton Arts Centre - that adopted a similar methodology to tell a convincing story.
That note, though, takes nothing at all away from the ingenuity that Ms Timms and her skilled team manage to inject into this wholly enjoyable production.
The approach employs a mix of physicality and the utilisation of basic props such as blankets, a trunk, pieces of rope and so on, to define and describe both situations and emotions.
On top of that, a finely-produced, eerie soundscape designed by Odinn Orn Hilmarsson, along with hauntingly effective music by Laura Kaye Thompson and Andy Straw's rather spectral lighting all combine to produce bags of chilling atmosphere.
That all makes for an accomplished piece of theatrical storytelling which Ms Timms drives forward at an unflagging, brisk and fluid pace, but armed also with perceptive sensitivity.
Danielle Winter as Frankenstein, photo: Sam Elwin Photography
The leads - Dannielle Winter as the intelligent Elizabeth possessed by an enquiring, fertile mind; and Elizabeth Schenk as the tortured monster constructed from bits of dead bodies, both turn-in well-considered, thoughtful and highly convincing performances.
And they're given innovative, well-timed support from the rest of the ensemble who can effortlessly turn their hands to singing as well as acting to add harmoniously to the already moving ambience generated by the creative team.
The only negative element in the evening came from a thoughtlessly selfish member of the audience who decided to munch and scrunch his way through two huge bags of what seemed like crisps.
The cast, however, remained professionally and commendably unfazed by the lengthy incident.
That intrusion aside, Isabel Dixon and Katherine Timms' feminist reimagining of Frankenstein does ample justice to Mary Shelley's still astonishing work, in a compelling and chilling tale packed with creative flair.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for The Space
Our show listing for Frankenstein
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