On Creating a Monster or a Masterpiece

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.

Why Cultivate Creativity?

I say we yearn to leave something that lasts
To be known for what little we’ve done
Men tell their children the tales of their past
And each man gives his name to his son
Something in song or in story
Something in blood, something of glory
Something that won’t fade away in a year
– “I Was Here” from The Glorious Ones

Why create? A question with a million answers. Is it merely to communicate in a method stronger than words – in a language that has no boundaries? Is it because there is an innate need, a hunger to get something out? An expression of a conversation with one’s soul?

The most valuable thing that we have as humans is the ability to feel. Every experience, however difficult or challenging, leaves its impression.  And creativity stems from a feeling: a twinge of anger, utter confusion, insatiable wonder.

Creativity can also help to stave off the feelings of insignificance when confronted with one’s own impermanence. When an individual comes to terms with the fact that life is short – a blip on the universe’s timeline – what better reaction than to try to leave something behind. A marker of one’s existence.

If you are only going to watch one video on creativity in your entire life, let it be this talk that Elizabeth Gilbert gave in 2009. Every single moment is worth it. Here’s to the “genius” inside each and every one of us.