I don’t normally do anything for Halloween. It isn’t a day that excites me. Last year I watched Fright Night, because I had an inpromptu day off sick and it was sat on my Sky planner. This year, however, I was treated by my mum to a cinema showing of the National Theatre’s Frankenstein.
Initial reactions are ‘yay! Frankenstein is typically Halloween, what a great way to spend the evening’. I didn’t give it much more thought other than I really wanted to see the Danny Boyle directed, Benedict Cumberbatch/Jonny Lee Miller adaptation.
At 7.15pm last night I realised why I hadn’t given it much thought. I haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the closest I’ve come to the movie adaptations is Mel Brooks’ brilliant Young Frankenstein. I haven’t even watched Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie yet (I’m not I can cope with it being about a dog, there might not be enough tissues in the world). But I know something about the story.
I recognised the genius behind having Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating between playing Frankenstein and the Creature; they are the same, reflections of one another and the Creature is just as much the monster as Frankenstein (although I would actually argue that Frankenstein is the true monster).
I know that it is a story of a doctor piecing together different human remains to create a man and bring him to life. That the Creature, never afforded the luxury of a name, is tormented and beaten by all who meet him and, I thought, was killed by villagers with burning torches and pitchforks. Or maybe the doctor was killed…or both?
As I say, I didn’t give it much thought.
Before the production showed there was a short video about the creation of the play. That’s when it hit me, seeing Miller and Cumberbatch rehearsing, listening to how their created the Creature. I admit I instantly became uncomfortable. I was about to watch two hours of a man being brought into existence only to be shunned and told repeatedly that he was an abomination. It was painful before the production even started.
I should state here that the production of Frankenstein is amazing. Incredible. Brilliant. Beautiful. The acting is impeccable, as are the visuals, as you would hope from such great names. I especially loves the lights above the stage, which at first I thought represented the lightning or electricity, bringing the Creature to life, but by the end realised it also represented firing brain synapses – that spark of life. The make up for the Creature also deserves a mention, even with the camera close ups I couldn’t see how they made the grotesque suture marks. The version we saw had Cumberbatch as the Creature and, as I’m sure Miller’s performance would have been, it was original, beautiful and heartbreaking.
This is a story of monsters. Men are the monsters and through creating the Creature out of pride and arrogance, Frankenstein unleashes onto the world a new life, eager to learn, in a man’s body. And learn he does. He quickly learns of violence and that all will hate him. He meets only one accepting person who educates him and gives him a voice, which is a vital ingredient that the movie adaptations lost, presumably to keep the Creature the monster rather than the doctor.
He learns of lonliness, of love that he will never have and he learns of betrayal and lies. The majority was taught to him by Frankenstein, but the rest of the world help to ingrain these ideas into the Creature’s mind.
If Frankenstein had taken some responsibility, if others had been more open minded, it is very clear that the Creature would have blossomed into a well rounded, educated and morally good individual. Instead this life that only wants to be good and accepted, feels forced into violence and murder.
Frankenstein and his creation are replicas of one another. It seemed to me that both wanted to love, both wanted something more. Frankenstein was incapable of love and, upon seeing that his monster creation was capable of more than he, he ensured that the Creature had nothing. Eventually both had nothing, except for each other.
Frankenstein is a beautiful but desperately sad story. The reason I woke up with it still resonating within me is because it is still true today. Scientists are still governed by pride and arrogance to take their work too far (Dolly the sheep immediately springs to mind). But is also speaks of our society. How open minded we are to those that are different and our treatment of those people. Not a great deal has changed.
The main thing that struck me through the performance was simply that the Creature looked different. That was why he suffered violence and rejection. Most he encountered did not know how he came to be in the world, only that he didn’t look ‘normal’.
When I came home and told my husband about it, he asked me if Frankenstein built the Creature because he was lonely. I said no, Frankenstein built the Creature because he is a dick. What person creates life (either naturally or not) and then abandons it, takes no responsibility, and leaves a vulnerable and new mind alone in this cold, cruel world.
I then ate a bag of Malteasers, had a cuddle with the hubby and watched the new episode of Big Bang Theory that was on last night, to bring me back to my own life and remind me that not all men are bad.