Image courtesy of Erica Belton.
Frankenstein is a difficult text to dramatise. From the crucial intricacy of the novel’s structure, to the use of first-person narration evoking the necessary sympathy for the monster, it is a challenge. Bedlam’s recent production of the novel was partly successful, but was severely lacking in several areas.
The play’s script was an interesting take, with the opening keeping true to the novel and beginning with a conversation between Frankenstein – clearly distressed – and Walton in the middle of the stage. Although it was apparent that Frankenstein’s dialogue was crucial to the narrative, Walton’s importance was somewhat sidelined.
Director Joseph McAulay created a more in-depth narrative centering upon Frankenstein’s mate, depicting her as a menacing, if not more highly corrupted character than her male counterpart, determined to traumatise Frankenstein and create a superior race of deformed creatures. Although it did provide her with more purpose beyond that of Shelley’s rather passive representation, it neglected the necessary sympathy evoked in the reader for Frankenstein’s creations, and merely came across as a misguided attempt at mysticism of the character. The inclusion of the dream scenes were also confusing, making the production feel fragmented, and lacking the flow required for the performance.
The acting was similarly inconsistent. The actor playing Frankenstein portrayed the madness of the character effectively, including subtle additions which focused upon his internal conflict. Frankenstein’s father similarly possessed the same physical idiosyncrasies, however not to the same success. The female characters lacked depth in their performance, creating a feel that was somewhat reminiscent of school productions.
Nonetheless, the set design was particularly striking; a white background surrounded the characters while icicles bordered the stage, creating a nihilistic scene reminiscent of Shelley’s outer setting in the Arctic Circle. The overall performance had the potential to become an effective portrayal, and although the inclusion and elaboration of the female monster was unique, the character lacked depth beyond that of an archetypal mad woman with no intention other than to cause misery.