NTLive Frankenstein: Cast 1Encore
Revisiting Frankenstein, one year later, is interesting. It’s no less impressive, but what impresses me is different.
Cast 1, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein, is funnier than I remember. A year ago, I may have been too stunned to truly appreciate the wickedly satirical wit Nick Dear inserted in the text. It wears it well. While there is still a desperate, doomed pathos in the duality of Frankenstein’s brittle genius vs. the Creature’s unbridled emotional volatility, it is a far more scathing text than I recalles. A sort of horrific farce exists onstage, as the danse macabre between the creator and created plays out. The mannered morés of the early 19th c., contrasted with the Creature’s journey from innocence to experience, Victor’s soulless desperation, and in a role that is far sharper than London critics gave her credit for: Naomie Harris as Shelley proxy Elizabeth.
Harris and Andreea Padurariu, the brides of the play, turn Frankenstein into more than a critique of the male id. They show the audience that without a balance between science and compassion, ethics and ambition, love and reason, we lose our humanity. (nb: I don’t read a sense of character attributes as gendered, merely characters.showing these things in contrast to the leads.)
The score is still stunning, the set design spare and effective, and the lighting design is transcendant.
The focus, of course, is on Cumberbatch and Miller. Cumberbatch’s stunningly brutal physicality is a thing of beauty. Miller’s Victor is a faltering, curious child who cannot understand his own humanity, cannot assign value to that which does not glorify the mind, and who relies on the strength of his intellect and ego to secure his own worth. The Creature is howling loneliness and loss, Victor is the same, but with the means of succor within his grasp.
The play is funny and heartrending, while showcasing two incredible talents. Seeing one version is only half the story. Tomorrow, the role swap is screened. Will my impressions from a year ago, or even tonight’s screening, hold up? We’ll see.