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