• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Fringe 2023: Birth of Frankenstein

ByJack Ferguson

Aug 25, 2023
A man and a woman standing bathed in red light.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This adaptation of how teenager Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein beguiles its audience with verve, wit, and intense performances.

The Birth of Frankenstein begins in darkness and instantly draws you in with nods to Shelley’s masterpiece. The audience sits raptured by noises of charging electricity, echoing how Frankenstein’s creature was animated. This, combined with the piercing sound of violins moaning like whining dogs, creates an ominous start that hints at the tragic events surrounding the birth of one of literature and film’s greatest monsters.

The play currently showing in The Cellar at Pleasance Courtyard tells the tale of how young lovers Mary and the already-married Percy Shelley ran away, along with Mary’s stepsister Claire, from crippling debt, disownment, and disrepute to Geneva. There, the couple stayed with the charismatic, yet cruel Lord Bryon, whereupon Byron’s challenge to share ghost stories led to Mary becoming inspired to write the tragedy of Frankenstein’s monster. 

The performances from the ensemble elevate the story for those already familiar with Mary Shelley’s biography. Teryn Gray’s endearing, yet defiant take on Mary Shelley captivates. When Mary announces her intention to write and not ‘bury the fire of creation’ despite the trauma of burying her child, Gray performs this monologue like a held breath, with her face shining in the spotlight. Gray’s expression contorts into one of alarming restraint that emphasises how Mary is struggling to contain her emotions when making this promise to herself and Gray’s handling of this moment makes her one to watch. The parallels clearly made between Mary’s story of reanimating a corpse and her desire to revive her own dead children are hugely moving and form the real tragic throughline of the play. 

Although the actors played multiple parts throughout the story, the sharp script navigated the audience through these potentially confusing changes with aplomb. The staging of scenes recreating key moments in Frankenstein and scenes featuring characters telling ghost stories were powerful, with strategic use of smoke and red lighting combining to send shivers of dread rattling through the audience. 

Odd creative choices did detract from the actor’s performances. A sequence where the actors moved the onstage furniture to emphasise Mary and Percy travelling around Europe could be cut. But overall, this is an hour of your time well spent. 

‘Birth of Frankenstein’ runs until August 28. Tickets are available here.

Image via Maverick Theatre.

By Jack Ferguson