Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Frankenstein, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Martin Gray.
The audience enters the auditorium to the sound of fizzing electricity and rumbling machines. A gauze backdrop carries the shapes of pylons, power skipping between them. A cloth on the floor begins to stir. Something rises…
It’s a hypnotic beginning to an intense adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. Lindel Hart’s Creature, at first naked and mute, grows in stature throughout, scrabbling towards humanity; tragically, his innocence is supplanted by evil as he learns to hate Victor Frankenstein. For Victor abandons the Creature, fleeing when he feels horror at the first sight of his creation. Hart’s performance dares you to look away – how he moves and the sounds he makes, ensures you won’t.
Colin Allen conveys Victor’s emotional and moral cowardice in the face of his own weakness. Allen shows his versatility by also playing Victor’s young brother William, as well as the blind man who teaches the Creature to speak and read. It’s a little unfortunate, almost comedic, that all three roles demand a death scene of Allen, but he pulls it off. Covering the bodies is Shelley herself, usually inhabiting a desk at the side of the action, but occasionally stepping forward to gesture and whistle at the Creature and Blind Man, moving them ahead in the narrative. It doesn’t work – Shelley seems less puppet master than panto Good Fairy. It’s as if director Linda McInerney just wanted to give actor Jane Williams more to do than a couple of scenes as Victor’s bride-to-be, Elizabeth.
Overall, though, the surefooted direction, committed performances and vivid visual and sound design ensure this show works superbly. There’s especially effective use of shadowplay, with distorted figures matching the unnatural acts we’re not quite seeing.
Frankenstein is a familiar story, but this staging makes its most fundamental question – what makes a monster? – new again.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236) until 22 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 13 August 2015
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