Frankenstein is one of those rare classics that has stayed relevant ever since the day it was published. Subsequent adaptations of the novel have reflected some of society’s great social divides and fears – from race relations to environmental degradation. But what is so refreshing about Old Deerfield’s production is that it exemplifies the purest form of Shelley’s story – the struggle of humanity against itself – without taking away from the central relationship between Victor Frankenstein (Colin Allen) and his Creature (Lindel Hart).
The opening of the show is utterly captivating. Lindel Hart’s Creature has just a touch of Johnny Lee Miller in his performance; he emerges from his sleep like a newborn, moaning and unsure of his own limbs. Throughout the next hour, he continues to enthral. In an interesting twist, the mysterious figure of Mary Shelley (Jane Williams) stands in the corner and remains through the play the figure of a grim reaper, the ultimate observer of the human race.
Much like the novel, Hart’s Creature continues through his short life as a pitiable, childlike figure with a morality of his own. There is very little of Frankenstein present in this adaptation – his long letters are cut down and combined with Elizabeth’s. This is the Creature’s play, and I think it’s all the more interesting because of it.
An excellent use of multimedia helps in the endeavour of conveying scenes the main script missed, and adds atmosphere to what could have been a very bare, drab stage. The minimalist use of sound also works to captivate the audience. There are no swelling overtures here – only the sound of electricity and storms, and the painful moan of a Creature abandoned by its master. One of the things I liked most about the production is that there are no distractions from the acting.
Yet while the blurb of the play hints at an environmental message, I’m not convinced it came across as strongly as it could have done. The video in the background of the production did feature some natural scenery, but this could have been there for any number of reasons – Shelley’s Frankenstein was famously verbose in its description of setting. So while the play certainly explores a central theme of the relationship of humanity to science and nature, the advertised allegory didn’t seem to shine through.
In some ways, though, I’m glad the audience isn’t battered over the head with a message; it allowed me to enjoy the production as an excellent representation of the original story. Old Deerfield provide familiarity over gimmicks, a brave decision in such an overwhelmingly large Fringe programme, but a choice that seems to be working well for them. On the night I attended, the show was sold out – so get your tickets early for this one.