FRANKEN­STEIN MORE ABOUT HU­MAN­ITY

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - GARY SMITH

Vic­tor and Frankie are com­ing to Hamil­ton.

Strictly speak­ing, that’s Vic­tor Franken­stein and his buddy The Crea­ture, though peo­ple con­tinue to call the patch­work of old body parts Vic­tor made, Franken­stein.

Never mind, what­ever you choose to call them, the in­fa­mous pair will be skulk­ing around The Pearl Com­pany come early Au­gust. And though they might not scare your pants off, they will make you think of how creepy it is to fool around with dead bod­ies.

Franken­stein, Mary Shel­ley’s cau­tion­ary tale about ego and hubris, has fas­ci­nated au­di­ences since 1818.

Boris Karloff as The Crea­ture in the 1931 film so star­tled movie au­di­ences, the­atre own­ers had to plant so-called nurses in the aisles to res­cue those who fainted.

Later, more es­o­teric ver­sions of the story re­quired no health care pro­fes­sion­als present. By then we kind of liked The Crea­ture and were an­noyed by those who ha­rassed him.

Canadian chore­og­ra­pher Wayne Eagling’s 1985 work, “Franken­stein: The Mod­ern Prometheus,” of­fered a mon­ster who danced at Lon­don’s Covent Gar­den. In 2016, Bri­tish dance­maker Liam Scar­lett of­fered a new Franken­stein bal­let with a hunky look­ing Crea­ture for us to love.

Then, big time star Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch gave us a sexy Vic­tor to fall for in Nick Dear’s hit play at the Royal Na­tional The­atre in Lon­don.

Now, Vic­tor and his Mon­ster are com­ing to Hamil­ton in the world pre­mière of a new Franken­stein play adapted from Shel­ley’s al­most 200-year-old novel.

“The ver­sion we’re pre­sent­ing at The Pearl is closer to Shel­ley’s orig­i­nal in­ten­tion,” says direc­tor Gary San­tucci. “It’s about hold­ing on to our hu­man­ity. There are se­ri­ous mine­fields, both eth­i­cal and moral, when it comes to cre­at­ing life from the vis­cera of dead bod­ies.”

Bri­tish Columbia play­wright David Elen­dune has fash­ioned a ver­sion of Shel­ley’s story that isn’t so much fo­cused on hor­ror as the vin­tage film ver­sion was.

Peter An­der­son, who plays Vic­tor Franken­stein in Elen­dune’s play, says “Vic­tor is a vic­tim of cu­rios­ity and ego. The story has al­ways been a cau­tion­ary tale, sug­gest­ing lim­its in the di­rec­tion sci­ence may go.”

Both San­tucci and An­der­son ad­mit Vic­tor is the real mon­ster in the story.

“In this ver­sion, The Crea­ture has the brain of an in­tel­li­gent be­ing. He doesn’t grunt and slap peo­ple around like Karloff in the film. There’s no fright­en­ing green makeup, no rod through the neck.”

“Af­ter all,” San­tucci says, “In a sense the Mon­ster is in­no­cent. He didn’t ask to be born, did he?

“He’s Vic­tor’s brain­child. And the play is about the con­se­quences of his birth.”

There’s some­thing else in­ter­est­ing about Elen­dune’s ver­sion. He’s es­tab­lished an im­por­tant fe­male role in his play that al­lows for male­fe­male

sex­ual ten­sion, as well as an im­age of failed role models.

“Af­ter all, is it the child who is to blame for bad be­hav­iour, or the par­ent who fails to pro­vide a nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate im­age?” An­der­son queries.

With its dark, mys­te­ri­ous corners, tiny wind­ing stair­cases and dusty look of the past, The Pearl is a per­fect set­ting for Elen­dune’s play.

“The build­ing has such at­mos­phere,” San­tucci agrees. “And the pro­duc­tion will be per­formed in the round so Shel­ley’s gothic world will sur­round you.”

An­der­son formed his Clas­si­cal The­atre Com­pany to spark new life into clas­si­cal works. He wants to give these works new edge and hopes au­di­ences will see them through fresh eyes.

San­tucci isn’t a lover of clas­si­cal the­atre.

“I don’t look to the clas­sics. I like mod­ern work, so I see this piece as a chal­lenge. It’s about let­ting my imag­i­na­tion go. It’s the pub­lic’s fas­ci­na­tion with ghosts, im­mor­tal­ity and God that makes this story live,” San­tucci says. “That’s both gothic and mod­ern, isn’t it?”

Gary Smith has writ­ten on the­atre and dance for The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor for more than 35 years.

AN­THONY DICASA PHOTO

Peter An­der­son is Vic­tor Franken­stein, in an adap­ta­tion of Mary Shel­ley’s novel.

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