There’s seemingly nothing quite like resurrecting a classic story just as
its subject matter hits the headlines, ensuring hours of debate and
discussion about both life and art.
So as opinions continue to vary over the right to play God, whether in
preserving a faltering life or cloning a new one, this new adaptation of
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein makes it to the stage at Derby Playhouse.
Heavily reliant on lighting and sound effects, filmed projections and music
to create a sense of horror, it's a hugely stylised production with a dark
and functional set by Jon Balisor, beautifully lit by Lucy Carter.
But those looking for a classy adaptation of a classic tale should stay
home. And forget any preconceptions of a square-headed monster with a bolt
through his neck.
Instead, director Uzma Hameed offers Frankenstein's monster as simply an
ill-conceived experiment, where the scientist's new mode of creation,
involving neither God nor womankind, leads ultimately to destruction. There
is no nurturing involved, and nature itself is bizarrely manipulated.
Alun Raglan ranges from rage to reason as the creature, pointing the
finger of blame at his creator and raising the usual questions about genetic
engineering, playing God and the right to exist. Ferdy Roberts is an
earnest and dedicated maverick scientist as Frankenstein, but the failings
of Stephen Edwards' adaptation leave little room for depth or substance to
his story. Edwards' work basically over-simplifies what was originally a
beautifully-layered story about the human condition, removing any sympathy
for a creature who has nowhere to turn because he has nowhere to belong.
Where one would expect an adaptation to take great lines of dialogue
directly from the original text, Edwards' piece is devoid of any artistic
integrity in doing so. Act two, for example, introduces the monster as an
educated, eloquent and intelligent being, before offering any explanation as
to how the transformation has occurred.
Likewise, there is little indication as to why Frankenstein has switched
from delight at giving life to his creation, to fear, loathing and a desire
to kill it.
The company of ten makes the best of the clumsy telling of an intricate tale,
and by the end it feels something like Frankenstein by numbers, with each
section filled in according to instruction but little by way of explanation
as to why.