Four star review of Frankenstein at York Theatre Royal

Stage: FrankensteinYork Theatre RoyalLorraine Behrens 4/5

Tilted Wig’s thought-provoking reimagining of Frankenstein is a veritable rage against humanity. Mary Shelley’s 205-year-old masterpiece on the ethical concerns of scientific ambition and man’s responsibility for its progress is transplanted to the period before and during the Second World War and her hideous but pathetic monster an allegory for control and hatred.

The book tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural science who creates an artificial man from pieces of corpses and brings his creature to life. Initially seeking affection, it inspires loathing in everyone who meets it. In this touring production, Dr Frankenstein is not Victor but Victoria (Eleanor McLoughlin, giving a tremendous performance filled with self-obsession and angst). Her laboratory is somewhere in Germany and in the opening scene she is on the run from her creation, finding refuge in a log cabin inhabited by ‘The Captain’ (Basienka Blake) who is also a fugitive, we presume from a concentration camp.

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Victoria tells her story in return for shelter, and the prelude to it plays at times more like drawing room comedy than Gothic horror as Victoria’s sister Elizabeth drops in unexpectedly as if dressed for a garden party. But there is genuine darkness to come as the monster (Cameron Roberston) judders and limps into the visceral collection of limbs and human organs to which an electrical storm has given life. This horrifying creation has taught itself how to speak and read and its words lay bare man’s inhumanity to man: “Humans are barbaric, selfish and cruel.”

Frankenstein at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Robling PhotographyFrankenstein at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Robling Photography
Frankenstein at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Robling Photography

The show also illustrates how we are terrified of those who are ‘different’ - not just the monster, but the marvellous realisation of the doctor’s assistant, Francine, played by Annette Hannah who has restricted growth. She issues a powerful challenge to Dr Frankenstein asking if she too is seen as ‘imperfect’. Francine is shunned by Richter, a brusque and unfeeling Nazi character who commands the doctor to create an army of monsters to unleash hell on earth, asking: Do we side with progress or stagnate? Richter also shows disgust when meeting Henry, Frankenstein’s partner, who is black. The role of Richter is also played by Basienka Blake who shows her versatility in the contrasting characters - one escaping from evil, the other in the process of creating it.

To October 28.