Review: Frankenstein

3 star rating
A grand old house provides an atmospheric setting for an immersive and intriguing retelling of Mary Shelley's well-known tale of a monster created by a scientist.
Frankenstein at Sutton House

Image by Nick Arthur Daniel


Theatre: Sutton House

Closes here: Saturday 3 November 2018

Author:
Katharine Armitage

Director:
Katharine Armitage

Cast:

Christopher Dobson - Henry

Katy Helps - Justine

Jeff Scott - Victor Frankenstien

Molly Small - The Creature

Jennifer Tyler - Elizabeth


Synopsis


A spark of life, a flash ... and something new is created.


A scientist brings life from death, a young woman invents a new genre of literature and both will be known by the same name: Frankenstein.


Background


This Hallowe'en, Tea Break Theatre unravel their new immersive production of Mary Shelley's twisting tale of the perils of stretching the boundaries of nature.


In the 200th year of its publication, this electric adaptation will transport you away from everything safe and familiar into a world of uncertainty, experimentation and danger.


Enter Sutton House, step into the past and be swept away into a story which seeks to answer the ultimate question ... who is the monster?


Tea Break Theatre's production sees Victor bringing a female creature to life - the ideal woman who fails to live up to his expectations.


The fear, bloodshed and torment that follows is intentionally double-edged as the audience will be torn between whether the true villain is the creature or, in fact, the creator.


Through these ideas the company put a feminist twist on the well-known novel, exploring how female identity is shaped by patriarchy and how women are then punished for failing to live up to it.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Sunday 21 October 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

A demanding monster - created and hand-stitched by an inventive scientist - runs amok in a grand old house in this immersive recreation of Mary Shelley's story.


The property in question - Sutton House - was built in 1535 by one of Henry VIII's courtiers and, before it got taken on by the National Trust, was occupied by squatters during the 1980s.


Tea Break Theatre have now temporarily moved in to bring Frankenstein's monster (or 'creature') back to life in an extraordinary setting that certainly lends an authentic feel to the tale and provides an appealing evening of site specific theatre.


The show starts in a hall-like room with large beams and little ornamentation which seems to have undergone considerable restoration and has more the feel of a meeting room.


Here, there's relatively little historical ambience, but this is the setting merely for an introduction to the night's events.


However, it rather wrong-footed the audience since, once settled in the room, we were invited to 'share' with everyone.


I wondered for a moment if I'd fetched-up on the correct evening, and others among the audience started to look as though they'd like to slink out into the night.


Though it eventually becomes clear what's going on, the early segment of this scene would benefit from a bit of a re-think because rather than firmly anchoring us in the nature of the performance, it actually left most people seemingly confused.


However, once we got past that and the story proper started, the performance proved clearer, more interesting and more successful.


Sutton House has a lovely open courtyard at its heart surrounded by high brickwork and big windows.


The courtyard gives access to rooms on upper levels via staircases leading to panelled old rooms.


The immersive quality of this production comes from the fact that we follow the action around the house as the story unfolds.


That means we move into and out of rooms, and up and down the staircases between scenes, which take place in many different rooms as well as the courtyard.


In the introduction, we learn of another dimension to our meanderings around the house, but I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.


Mary Shelley's story (first published in 1818) gets a twist in Katharine Armitage's adaptation - 'the creature' becomes a woman, played by Molly Small, adorned with facial stitching that proves ample to indicate how she was created.


Tea Break Theatre have certainly gone to considerable lengths to add both some homeliness to the rooms we visit, as well as to provide enough reality in Victor's laboratory to convince us of his 'creative' powers.


Katharine Armitage's narrative proves easily digestible and though the action gets interrupted when we decamp to different rooms, the overall storytelling and energy of the piece doesn't suffer in the process.


And Ms Armitage manages to organise her engaging cast with considerable logistical skill and theatrical finesse given the unusual nature of this location.


The open courtyard feels a little chilly by later in the evening, so if you're planning a visit it's best to wrap up a little, but it's certainly worth venturing out for, especially given the proximity to halloween.


And the charming, historic backdrop adds much to the overall flavour of Ms Shelley's still beguiling story, even given the darkly unsettling brutality it contains.



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