Frankenstein has taken on many guises since its birth as a novel in 1818. The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley certainly created a monster! Two hundred years later, it is still as relevant and was the inspiration for the National Youth Theatre London’s rep season, which is taking place at the Southwark Playhouse in London until the end of November.
Taking the classic novel and turning it on its head, it was adapted by Carl Miller and directed by Emily Gray to transport it into a contemporary tale of caution and horror, to open up a discussion on the advancements of science, refugees and homosexuality.
Featuring a gender bending cast- Victoria (Dr Frankenstein) and Shell (Frankenstein’s Monster) are both played by women- this adaptation describes how Artificial Intelligence could eventually lead to human destruction. Assisted with audience VR headsets, and a supernatural soundtrack, there was surreal, out of this world atmosphere for the duration.
The cautionary tale of modern technology, works well with the young actors who are on the edge of scientific advancements; But the ensemble are difficult to distinguish, switching between several characters throughout the performance. However, this does mean the audience has to concentrate hard to establish the role of every actor.
Like the book, the play focuses on student doctor Victoria (played by Ella Dacres) who is so fixated on work, that she neglects her friends and family to concentrate on her clandestine experiment. Not instantly likeable, her selfishness is self-fulfilling as she single handedly creates the monster, who becomes her double – with comparable intellect and learning speeds, and is her eventual downfall.
The mechanical doppelganger is played by Sarah Lusack, who cannot be faulted for her performance. However you imagine an alien, Lusack is convincing in her blankness and calm almost (but not quite) robotic movements. Almost likable- especially when she offers a hug, she takes on a personality – which makes her role as a baddie even more difficult to swallow.
So far so predictable, the play opens with all cast, dressed as uniform nurses on Hannah Wolfe’s industrial, traverse stage. Without wings or a backdrop, the action jumps around to flashbacks and the current day, requiring a lot of mental agility from the audience. However Sonny Poon Tip, who plays Garth, the narrator, is thankfully a static chaperon throughout the duration- and he commands the storyline through his oversized remote control.
By taking Shelley’s original idea of science fiction and presenting into a future that is conceivable, the 16-strong company has opened up the debate that was the talk of the town in the Victorian era. Tainted with post-modern sensibilities and futuristic ideals- the notion of a human robot is rapidly becoming more realistic, and our thoughts might turn to who is actually in control.
Frankenstein is showing at the Southwark Playhouse until 30th November.
77-85 Newington Causeway