Article by Dave Wright
In June 2009, the Royal National Theatre in London began broadcasting select performances live throughout the UK and Europe and offering the recorded version to theatres around the world for delayed viewing. The Xi’an Concert Hall began showing these productions in January of this year, opening with Hamlet. Since that time, they have screened several other plays, including Othello and Frankenstein, to sell out crowds. On August 14, the run continues with a second showing of Frankenstein.
Why two showings? Because producer/director Danny Boyle had his two leading men, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, alternate the lead roles nightly, with both versions filmed as part of the National Theatre Live project. The upcoming performance will see Miller as creator and Cumberbatch the creation, a role that Michael Billington from the Guardian termed, “unforgettable,” as Cumberbatch successfully brings out the humanity of the creature.
The story, adapted for the stage by Nick Dear, stays fairly close to Mary Shelley’s original rather than the Hollywood stylized version of a plodding monster and pitchfork-carrying villagers. The monster as man, man as monster motif garners the most consideration (evidenced in part by the men’s nightly role reversal) with particular attention being paid to the emotional and mental development of Frankenstein’s creation. People familiar with the source material may find that the making of the ‘monster’ and Victor Frankenstein’s overwhelming obsession do get glossed over to some extent, but the strengths in this telling still far outweigh the weaknesses.
Reviews for the play were overwhelmingly positive and both actors received general acclaim for their portrayals. In addition, the filmed version has been screened all over the world and sold over 500,000 tickets. It may not be quite like seeing the performance live in London, but it’s still a fantastic way to spend a hot August afternoon.
Dave is a lover of all things musical and a total bass head, meaning that he loves to play the bass, not that he has a bass for a head