Centrepoint’s complex classic
The story may be horrific but the show will be terrific.
Frankenstein, the biggest production of Centrepoint Theatre’s 41-year history, will see two of New Zealand’s most notable television stars collaborate with more than 20 budding actors from the Manawatu community.
Led by artistic director Jeff Kingsford-Brown, the show will be staged at Centrepoint from August 8 to 29 and features Chris Tempest (Shortland Street) as Dr Victor Frankenstein pitted against Karlos Drinkwater ( Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Shortland Street) as the infamous creature.
‘‘The cast is enormous and we’re throwing a lot into this. The whole theatre has been taken apart and put back together in a different shape. There’s live music and, being so interactive, it’s a complex show,’’ says Jeff.
The story follows Frankenstein’s bewildered creature, childlike in his innocence but grotesque in form, who is cast out into a hostile universe by his horror-struck maker. Met with cruelty wherever he goes, the friendless creature, increasingly desperate and vengeful, determines to track down his creator and strike a terrifying deal.
Karlos says the themes within the thrilling and deeply disturbing classic gothic tale drew him to the role, including urgent concerns of scientific responsibility, parental neglect, cognitive development and the nature of good and evil.
‘‘The way we relay these ideas to the audience is, for me, the interesting part. Despite it being a classic story, today’s technology tinkering with cloning and artificial insemination – even artificial intelligence – keeps this version relevant to a contemporary audience,’’ he says.
National Theatre’s production of the play, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch from TV’s Sherlock, was a hit in 2011, and National Theatre Live’s broadcast has become an international sensation, experienced by almost half a million people in cinemas around the world.
Chris credits the production’s popularity to its dark yet funny script that carries with it big characters with strong motives and dangerous consequences.
‘‘When I read it, it was very visceral – it all played out so clearly in my head. It’s a fantastic play,’’ he says.
More than 30 people from the community auditioned for the show and about half were cast. In addition, the show features an ensemble played by Centrepoint’s Basement Company, a theatre training programme for Manawatu youth which high school students audition for at the start of each year.
Jeff says the show provides a valuable opportunity for community actors to be part of a professional production where hours of work have gone into every element.
‘‘If the standard we apply to the show in terms of set, lighting and costume are as high as they can be then that gives them a platform to do their best work. We’re definitely seeing that.’’
Workshops by actor Carrie Green, formerly from Manawatu, and Basement Company director Craig Geenty were held during the first week of rehearsals.
Movement choreographer and dancer Luke Hanna also provided useful training for the ensemble.
‘‘Part of the rationale behind Frankenstein is that we learn how to do things in a slightly different way, and hopefully upskill our community actors in the process,’’ says Jeff.
The audience will surround a circular set, designed by Theo Wijnsma, and walkways everywhere mean they’ll also be part of the action.
Lighting and effects by Marcus McShane will have equal impact.
‘‘There are a lot of dark corners and unseen bits of the set that reveal themselves as the play goes on,’’ Jeff says. ‘‘Everything looks really stunning.’’
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Karlos Drinkwater as the Creature from Centrepoint’s production of Frankenstein.