In this case, a recording of the National Theatre in London’s performance of an adaptation of Frankentein done by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. One that I went to largely because it starred Benedict Cumberbatch and a friend of mine was squeaking in delight so much we decided we would accompany her. It would be, if nothing else, an interesting experience.
Well, yes, it was interesting. The production also starred Jonny Lee Miller (they alternated the roles of the creature and the doctor; Cumberbatch was the creature at the recording we viewed) and George Harris and Naomie Harris and Karl Johnson who was Cato on Rome and a bunch of other people. And all of them did a pretty good job.
- Before the show started, an announced from the local theater group hosting the event explained that wasn’t it funny? Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes on the BBC (people cheered) and Jonny Lee Miller is going to be playing Sherlock Holmes on CBS. I kid you not, multiple full-grown adults in the audience actually booed at that. Like, enough of them that I would feel comfortable saying “a small majority of the audience booed at that.” Which is just so weird to me! I mean, I don’t know if I’m going to watch Elementary, mostly because since I try so hard to keep up with 10,000 other AMC/FX/HBO/Showtime/Starz/whatever shows all the time I don’t watch network shows generally (until they’re replayed on other channels or available on-demand on Netflix I guess) but not because I have any antipathy toward it. It has not even aired, and they were booing. Why? I mean, it’s a little strange to me that they’d release a competing Sherlock Holmes series when BBC Sherlock is such a deal, but that’s just strange in the way of “oh, it was weird that there were two Snow White movies around the same time,” or “oh, it was weird that there were two musical adaptations of The Wild Party in 2000.” I don’t feel like booing. Why booing? Because it’s not British? Because it’s on CBS? Because it’s not Benedict Cumberbatch? It’s strange.
- For what it’s worth, Jonny Lee Miller was a very effective performer I guess? I mean, Victor Frankenstein as a character is an enormous d-bag. And this production was allegedly more creature-slanted, so he was written as an even bigger d-bag. But Jonny Lee Miller was performing well?
- Benedict Cumberbatch was a fine monsterperson. The first 5+ minutes of the production were literally just Benedict Cumberbatch in scar makeup and a loincloth/diaper thing emerging from the semitransparent giant wombscreen of science and learning how to walk. Which involved a lot of falling down, rolling around, and grunting. I get it. Learning to walk is not fun. I know. But literally that was all that was going on. It was a risky choice.
- Everyone else did well in their respective roles I guess.
- Plus points for some colorblind casting!
- Minus points for weird pseudo-sneaky misogyny, I guess. I mean, the novel was written by a woman. I don’t remember it well enough to remember if the male characters routinely exchanged in dialogues like
Elizabeth: Do you think I wouldn’t understand your work?
Victor: Well, yes, you’re a woman.
(That is paraphrasing, but that’s what it meant.) And the pleasant, aloof audience of theatergoers (predominantly female) just laughed and laughed. I understand that such thoughts were sometimes held in the olden days. I don’t necessarily think it’s a funny joke.
- I do remember the plot of the novel well enough to know that Victor never actually built a mate for his creature. The creature requested it, and Victor did begin it, but then curtailed that effort after realizing what the ultimate result may be. In this play version, Victor actually heads to Scotland and entreats some locals to graverob a young beautiful girl for him. He then animates her, save some vague spark of personality (basically he animated her up to a tabula rasa, then figured to add the tiny extra in a minute, but she was very much alive), asks his creature if he truly loves her, and then upon the yes answer, he goes behind the weird semitransparent giant wombscreen of science and brutally hacks the ladycreature’s stomach out (?? that’s where all the blood was).
- Oh, okay, and here’s something else that wasn’t in the novel. Yes, the creature killed Elizabeth after her wedding to Victor. That happened. The creature did not go into Elizabeth’s room, converse with her, tell her he had learned how to lie, and then rape her. What the hell is up with that, I was asking myself. He then killed her once Victor had caught them in the act, but seriously? That added absolutely nothing to the story. Literally nothing at all. All it did was make me go “okay, why.”
- There were some neat set design things though I guess? The lights were cool, there was a train at one point that looked all steampunk?
- Oh, and at one point Karl Johnson the blind man was playing guitar and it sounded like it had been written by Colin Meloy.
- In short, yeah. I actually have no definitive opinion about the production as a whole, other than acknowledging that it really was not the book at all.
–your fangirl heroine.