Four days ago we went to see the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein, staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, but we didn’t see it at the theatre.
Earlier this year the National Theatre broadcast a live transition of Frankenstein into different cinemas around the country. Four days ago they re-broadcast it and we wert to see it, at the Vue cinema Dagenham.
The production was amazing and full of the theatre magic the National Theatre does so well. The play was written and performed from the point of view of The Creature, rather than Frankenstein, and opened with the painful and disorientating “birth” of The Creature. It portrayed him as someone driven to revenge and murder by the complete rejection he suffers from society just because of his looks. Whereas it portrayed Frankenstein as the arrogant scientist who creates life and then does not know how to handle that responsibility, he’d driven The Creature away as a “mistake” after its birth because it was so deformed, and there he hoped it had died. When The Creature returned to his life, Frankenstein can’t cope with the reasonability of what he’d done.
Benedict Cumberbatch played The Creature as someone trying to regain speech and movement after a brain injury. Jonny Lee Miller played Frankenstein as a strutting and arrogant man laid low by what he has done.
The production was magical and so tightly held our attention, yet it never stopped to preach a “message” at us, instead it concentrated on its dark and gothic story, letting the morality flow out of the story. It also stuck very closely to the plot of Mary Shelley’s book. This wasn’t a simple horror story, but a dark fable about the dangers of science.
The strangest thing, though, was our setting. The Vue Dagenham is a very suburban cinema, mostly showing Hollywood Blockbusters. For that screening of Frankenstein there was only Martin and I in the whole auditorium, which seated about two hundred people. I’ve never been the only person in a cinema before, it felt also decadent, but it also felt a little sad (We were the only people in the area taking the time to see this great production). What we didn’t feel was alone. Frankenstein had been filmed before a sell out audience and we could hear the audience’s reaction to the play. With surround sound it actually felt as if the cinema had a full audience, people laughed at the humour and gasped at the horror.
You can find out more about the National Theatre Live (live broadcasts of their productions) at their website.