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Frankenstein | The Lowry

Frankenstein is a visually stunning production which seems to sway unsteadily on its feet. It never completely ignites with the energy promised by the production design, and instead jumps hectically between the clashing elements of this retelling. The team at Imitating the Dog have meshed Mary Shelley’s classic novel with the story of a young couple expecting a child, and the play moves between these streams through various styles, like physical theatre. However, the narrative strands do not fit easily together, resulting in something aesthetic and impressive but unsubstantial.

There is a disconnect between Frankenstein’s battle with the electric energy of life – seen in the bright, crackling light that illuminates the stage – and the emptiness in the storyline of the young couple. The unnamed couple, played by Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia, do not seem fully realised due to the fragmented nature of the production. It is hard to connect with the intimacy of their story when it is intercut with the overwhelming drama of Shelley’s novel. It is also a little incongruous to connect her novel to the difficulty of deciding whether to bring a child into the world; if we are meant to reject Frankenstein’s ‘parental’ downfalls, then it appears as though we are meant to encourage the couple to have their child and love her differently. This seems simplistic (in regard to reproductive rights), and means it is sometimes hard to determine the play’s stance or message.

Myers and Okonyia’s performances go some way in making up for these ambiguities. They move elegantly together, and navigate the play’s rapid switches in style well. Sometimes, though, the more dramatic style of acting (for Shelley’s story) infiltrates the intimacy of the couple’s scenes, and perhaps these moments would have worked better with more subtlety of emotion and slower pacing.

The choreography, by Casper Dillen, turns the heightened emotions into moments of energy and palpable physicality. These moments worked nicely, especially in one of the couple’s clashes; Myers and Okonyia tussled with each other, engaged in a constant push and pull. This was striking and effective (and the choreography remained so throughout), but in the play’s entirety, these glimpses of physical theatre didn’t always feel earned. The cuts between modes of storytelling detracted from their success, as they occasionally felt like another sudden addition to navigate.

A mode of storytelling which worked beautifully throughout the play was the use of lighting and projections by Andrew Crofts and Davi Callanan. The projections of snow and ice were a nice link between the isolated landscapes of both narrative strands, and the sparking electricity of the videos on the screens reflected the play’s fascination with creation and life. The interaction between the actors and these screens – and the lightbulbs that hung from the ceiling – connected science and technology with human touch. These elements created a compelling visual story and helped tie together some of the play’s themes.

Frankenstein’s use of technology worked well in unifying the two narrative streams vying for attention throughout. It was hard to ignore the play's disjointedness; it would have benefited from more cohesive links between both stories (besides the lighting and projections). Overall, Frankenstein is an energetic piece of theatre, somewhat messily sutured together but still exciting, bold, and engaging. It is playing at The Lowry, Salford, until the 14th March, before continuing on its tour. For more information and tickets, click here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ed Waring


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