I expected to be creeped out, unsettled and perhaps at times a little scared during Red Rope Theatre’s production of Frankenstein, currently playing in the depths of Arnos Vale Cemetery.
It was certainly a spooky walk in the dead of night, ramping up tension and expectation before it had even started.
Whilst I felt all three of those unnerving feelings, what I really wasn’t expecting was such a thought provoking piece of theatre that made me reflect on humanity the next day.
I have no point of reference for Frankenstein. Despite a misspent 90’s Goth phase, I’ve never read Mary Shelley’s original story having been put off by a series of dreary movies.
This play was anything but dreary. It was tense, at times quite horrible and the one moment you think salvation and forgiveness is coming, it’s back to horror again. There are lighter moments with a much needed touch of humour coming from Lily Maryon as Elizabeth.
The big moment of creating The Monster was not the real horror of this piece. Perhaps the real horror is the realisation that in some ways, Frankenstein is part of all of us. We are Frankenstein and our Monsters are the bad decisions we make and the resulting fall out of these. We all have a ‘talent for chaos’ and perhaps we should consider the long-term nature of our actions, our parenting in particular more carefully.
Matt Grinter’s writing is perfectly placed in the Anglican Chapel. It’s the ideal setting for the clashing juxtaposition of science and religion both of which are key themes. Parental rejection is another theme and the motivating factor behind The Monster’s revenge. How many psychotherapists went ‘but Attachment Disorder’ when Elizabeth tries to blame The Monster for its own actions?
Director Rebecca Robson explores all these themes well, and makes excellent use of the intimate space. This was an ambitious piece of theatre. It worked, though ultimately I think one more actor might have lightened the load.
Throughout, the play has you questioning who is good? And who is evil? The lines are blurred, but Elizabeth’s speech on God during Justine’s hanging gave me a new found respect for police forensics and the British Justice System.
There’s a lovely monologue brilliantly delivered by Danann McAleer as Frankenstein about the death of his mother. How death invited itself into the family. Throughout the play McAleer gradually becomes as unhinged as The Monster becomes unstitched.
Lois Baldry as The Monster was fabulous. There was a bright-eyed curiosity burning from inside the skin mask and she was both frighteningly cheerful and graceful in her murderous rampage. Her scenes with Maryon playing William and then Elizabeth were particularly galling.
I wasn’t expecting such a clever and thought provoking piece of theatre. If you like a taut, thought provoking psychological horror, this is the perfect watch.
The age recommendation is 16 years upwards.
Frankenstein is on at Arnos Vale until 11 November 2018.