Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at Malvern Theatres: Review

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Two men on an exploratory voyage to the frozen North spot a figure running through the fog. Afraid of him at first, they debate whether to help him. They soon realise that he is nothing to fear and take him onboard. Then, the story unfolds. We are introduced to author Mary Shelley, and to the character found running on the ice, Dr Victor Frankenstein.

Ben Castle-Gibb as Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as adapted by Rona Munro

Rona Munro’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tells the story from the point of view of an author immersed in writing her novel. As the characters develop in her mind, they come to life on stage.

Victor Frankenstein is a bright child from a close family. When he leaves home for university, he is inspired by a chemistry lecturer. Whilst other students dismiss the subject due to their religious beliefs, Frankenstein embraces it. But it’s not long before the student’s experiments surpass the comfort level of his teacher and the two part ways.

His obsession with understanding death leads Frankenstein to try to create life. But when he breathes life into his monster, he is horrified. Mary Shelley is involved in the scene with her main characters. Both she and Frankenstein reject the monster, hounding him out of sight. Frankenstein’s madness over his creation leads him to spiral into darkness. His family tell him of the death of his brother, thought to have taken place at the hands of their servant. Victor Frankenstein knows that’s not the case, but he can’t bring himself to confess to creating a monster.

Michael Moreland (The Monster) & Ben Castle-Gibb (Victor Frankenstein) Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The story from Frankenstein’s point of view

Mary Shelley’s character is an interesting addition to the story. Her thoughts as she writes reflect on interpretations and theories on the novel over the years. These lead Shelley to the conclusion that Frankenstein’s monster deserves to be seen. So, the second half tells the story from the monster’s point of view.

A lonely man destined never to experience the love of his creator or another human being. She compares him to a baby, yearning a mother’s love, touch and affection. She explains how he comes to murder a child and talks the audience through his other killings. Her perspective on each one demonstrates sympathy for the monster and criticises Frankenstein for his weakness.

Eilidh Loan as Mary Shelley in Frankenstein. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The cast of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at Malvern Theatres

Rona Munro has written for stage, television, film and radio. She recently adapted Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy Barton, which was performed during 2018 and 2019 at the Bridge Theatre in London. Her main character, Mary Shelley is played by Eilidh Loan, a Scottish screen actress who has played television parts in London Kills and England’s Forgotten Queen among other roles.

Ben Castle-Gibb puts on a stunning performance in his professional debut as Frankenstein. His nemesis the monster is played by Michael Moreland. Thierry Mabong is the unfortunate Henry and Natali McCleary is Victor Frankenstein’s cousin and childhood sweetheart Elizabeth. Sarah MacGillivray and Greg Powrie take on the roles of mother and father. They and other members of the small cast also perform as other characters.

If you are looking for all-out horror, you won’t find it in Rona Munro’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Rather, it is a thought-provoking take on what drove the author to quite literally dream up a monster that would still captivate people’s imaginations hundreds of years after its creation.

The show runs until Saturday 18th January at Malvern Theatres. Tickets are available from their website. More information on the rest of the tour is available from Selladoor Productions.

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