I was fortunate enough to go see Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein last night. They filmed the play, then showed it in theaters. Actually I think there’s another showing tonight (6/7) if any ambitious people want to go. And trust me- you want to go.
This production was unique for about a thousand excellent reasons. Frankenstein and his monster are alternately played by Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, and Jonny Lee Miller, upcoming star of America’s Elementary. Each night they would switch roles. The showing I saw had Cumberbatch playing the monster, and he was breathtaking. The set was gorgeous. They did this thing with about a thousand incandescent light bulbs where they suspended them, naked, from the ceiling, creating a kind of massive wave of light. This was used to great effect, too- as star light, or to signal the burst of electricity that gives birth to the monster.
I’d like to add that even though the play had been filmed I was as drawn into the story as I would have been in the theatre. I will definitely be going to more ‘filmed theatre’ in the future.
Frankenstein is one of my favorite books, and it’s also one of my favorite books to hate. The deplorably neglect (and general whininess) of Victor Frankenstein annoys the hell out of me. I always find myself rooting for the monster, despite the monstrous acts he commits. The play took away the obnoxious aspects of their dynamic, leaving a thoughtful look at human evil and the question of choice. The Monster is shown an abundance of cruelty; and yet he also has examples of kindness, and through the old man in the woods is taught morality. In the end this self-professed rational being chooses to imitate his master- that is, to perpetuate hate, revenge, and spitefulness.
That’s not even touching on the other themes- hubris, man playing god, and the ability to feel love. In the play, Frankenstein cannot love. But his monster can.
Danny Boyle et al did a wonderful job. I really really really wish I could go again. Maybe, if I keep my fingers crossed and behave very nicely, they will release it on DVD.