On Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature

The National Theatre has been doing cinema broadcasts of Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein for a couple of Halloweens now. This is the first year I went to see it and had the best, scariest Halloween treat for many years.

It is rare that a play (or a movie, or an opera) has a profound effect on you in the first 5 minutes. This one does. From the very beginning I thought that this is already nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The birth and physical development of the creature by Mr Cumberbatch is incredibly touching. I’ve always felt deep sympathy with the creature but his performance portrayed vulnerability on a completely different level.

Mr Cumberbatch redefines whatever we meant by ‘a physical actor’ before. He is consistently impressive and surprising. He is very objectified nowadays, most comments I hear are related to his appearance so it was good to see yet another proof that actually he is famous because of his incredible, out of this world acting skills, not merely because he is ‘hot’.

Despite his brilliance, the main reason to see the production is, without a doubt, the story by Mary Shelley. It is the most stunning book, astonishingly well-written and interesting. It is not at all obvious as to how it can be produced as a play. Danny Boyle does that perfectly. He managed to re-create the atmosphere of the book and enhanced my understanding of it by allowing me to feel the emotions of the characters (particularly the creature) so much stronger. He added a lot of dialogue, including some comic relief, which some purists might dislike but was very much welcomed by me! The scene of Elizabeth’s death was also changed from the book and was made not just sad but extremely shocking and upsetting. At first I thought that it was unnecessary but Mary Shelley did want to shock people and this production took ‘shocking’ to a degree that would affect modern viewers.

The genius of this production is that main actors switched every night, so next time Johny Lee Miller will play the creature and Benedict Cumberbatch will play Victor Frankenstein. I really hope that the National Theatre will broadcast this play again next Halloween, I will certainly go again! Dear reader, if you remember next year, do go too!

P.S. I appreciate that this review is nearly a week late but I’ve been busy travelling. Next I am going to see Madama Butterfly, an opera by Puccini, I will try not to delay.

On Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature.

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