Misery made me a fiend
National Theatre Live’s at home series of free screenings got off to a colourful start with the comic farce One Man, Two Guvnors, faltered with a devised production of Jane Eyre, picked up the brilliance again with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and is now about to screen its not-to-be-missed production of Frankenstein.
Directed by academy award-winner Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), this production of Mary Shelley’s classic has Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Hamlet, Sherlock) and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary, Trainspotting) alternating between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation.
NTL will screen shows with two leads in either role.
The plot is generally well-known. Childlike in his innocence but grotesque in form, Frankenstein’s bewildered creature is cast out into a hostile universe by his horror-struck maker. Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, the increasingly desperate and vengeful creature determines to track down his creator and strike a terrifying deal.
Forget Boris Karloff with a bolt through his neck, and forget Peter Boyle as the monster singing Puttin’ On The Ritz in the Mel Brooks pastiche, says theatre reviewer Michael Billington. Boyle’s production is neither shlock nor satire.
“Instead, it’s a humane, intelligent retelling of the original story in which much of the focus is on the plight of the obsessive scientist’s sad creation, who becomes his alter ego and his nemesis: it’s rather like seeing The Tempest rewritten from Caliban’s point of view.”
In the visceral opening scene, the creature is seen as a grotesque, fully-formed being waiting to be born from a back-lit, throbbing sac. Once it bursts out it flaps, scrabbles at the stage floor then totters as it struggles to become upright.
Cumberbatch brings an epic grandeur to his performance as the creature, says Billingham.
“As he quotes Paradise Lost, his voice savours every syllable of Milton’s words and when, in outrage at his rejection by the exile’s family, he burns their cottage, he utters a Hamletesque cry of ‘I sweep to my revenge.’ It is an astonishing performance.”
Both versions of Frankenstein will be available on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.
Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature https://tinyurl.com/ycpmuu24 screens online from tomorrow morning, NZ time, and the season ends May 7.
Jonny Lee Miller takes over as the creature from Friday to May 8 and can be viewed via the link https://tinyurl.com/y9h97kal