Review: Frankenstein is a uniquely different version of Shelley’s gothic book (at Theatre Works until 29th July)

In Theatre Works’ latest showing, Frankenstein gets an 180-degree turn in a shadowy and modern portrayal of a horror icon, however, this portrayal felt overly simplistic despite the theatrical reframing. This premier season directed by Phil Rouse tells the gothic story by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley flipping gender and turning to a somewhat contemporary angle by including songs and sounds from the 80s.

Chantelle Jamieson is The Creature – someone who doesn’t understand what is going on around her but is curious and particularly is keen to know more about love. Michael McStay as Victor Frankenstein is taciturn, but as events unfold, turns somewhat crazed, which, as the plot unfolds quite permissible considering what happens to him (if you are familiar with the story).

This play sees the Monster as someone who would rather talk her feelings rather than being mute and gives a perspective on power that makes one think of the text in another way. There is a small bit of comedy especially played around with a stagehand dressed head-to-toe in black. One scene within a nightclub stood out as mirthful. Whether the comedy was intentional or not, I’m not sure. The play seemed faithful to the original as best it can be, but these small funny quips didn’t work with the shock and horror of it all.

Lally Katz is an experienced playwright with a inimitable attitude, and her work here along with director Phil Rouse seems to be well-intended, particularly with the intended message of gender and guilt.  While the acting and portrayal of the characters by Jamieson and McStay were powerful and engaging, the decision to put projected lettering on the back screen telling us literally what was happening in the scene looked too simplistic and took this production at a lower peg than what it should, or could have been.

Frankenstein is playing at Theatre Works in Melbourne’s St Kilda until the 29th July. More info at www.theatreworks.org.au

The writer attended the performance on the 21st July 2017

Photo credit: Sarah Walker

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