Frankenstein (National Theatre Live)
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 10th April 2011
We get some pretty good international theatre down here from time to time, but seldom can we see the likes of Danny Boyle directing actors of the calibre of Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in a play based on a classic novel. The beauty (in every sense) of the National Theatre Live productions is that we don’t have to fly to London to experience world-class theatre from the best seats in the house, even if screenings of this film are limited.
Both actors having learnt and alternated the lead roles of Dr Frankenstein and the monster, Cumberbatch and Miller deliver admirable performances, in particular whichever actor plays the creature maintaining an intense physicality for virtually the first hour of the play. A sharp script keeps up the pace. “You’ve read Paradise Lost?!” asks the incredulous doctor on meeting his creation for the first time, to which the creature replies simply “I liked it.”
Watching a play like this is an intriguing experience. Boyle, an Oscar-winning film director (whose early career encompassed theatre) brings many cinematic aspects to bear on the production, including dazzling lighting, a well-used revolving stage and a powerful soundtrack. The cameras enable close-ups and birds-eye views that the theatre audience can’t have, and the result is stunning.