Every once in a while, a show comes along that prods at you in ways that make the production linger in your mind long after the bows. One such piece is the National Theatre’s version of Frankenstein.
Had the absolute pleasure of catching a screening yesterday and haven’t stopped gushing about it since. The production was immaculate on a number of levels – brilliant direction by Danny Boyle, powerful adaption of the original Mary Shelley text, and some of the best scenic and lighting design I’ve ever seen. But the reason why this show’s now making its second tour in movie theatres after a sold out run over in London is thanks to the two leading men, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternate the role of the Creature and the Creator, Dr. Frankenstein, each night.
The play gives rise to the all important question of creation.
The Creature, although a rough piecemeal of a man visually, is an apt and accomplished leaner, quickly gaining a deep understanding of philosophy as well as the foibles of man. He serves as an example of the possibility inherent in creation, but illustrates that without proper guidance a “work of genius” can take control of its creator. It reminds us of the responsibility each of us have to that which we create – be it children, art, relationships – and offers stark warnings of the result of neglect.
Frankenstein’s experiments with human life also take on new context in our age of biomedical advancements in stem cells and cloning. It subtly highlights the discussions surrounding how we can manifest life through scientific achievement, and asks us again to be accountable for our choices. It seems to suggest that the difference between re-imagining and meddling with human life is in the hands of those creating. To be flippant with our achievements may spell out a precarious future.
We are what we create, and what we create in turn helps to shape us. May you continue to guide all that you create until it is fully formed.