Sunday, July 01, 2012


About two weeks ago, the only locally owned and operated movie house/theater in my town reran a showing of the National Theatre (of London)'s broadcast of Frankenstein. It originally aired a year ago, and people liked it so much that they sent it out again. It was directed by Danny Boyle (the man who did Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millioniare -- apparently he started in theater before directing movies). It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller as the Creature and Doctor Frankenstein.  Here's the first cool thing: both men play both parts. They switch roles nightly. The recording I saw had Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature and Johnny Lee Miller as the Doctor, but I think I read somewhere that they recorded it the other way 'round too. Now I want to see that one, because I'd like to see what choices each made in playing the other role.

What struck me (and continues to strike me, two weeks later) is how relevant this story still is. It raises questions about whether we should meddle with nature, whether we should do things just because we can, and what responsibilities we have to the things we create. Also, it pointed out to me how we still react with fear to things we don't understand, and how that fear usually turns quite quickly to anger and violence. If the Creature hadn't looked so ghastly, he wouldn't have been treated so cruelly by everyone who laid eyes on him. And if he'd met with more kindness, he wouldn't have acted the way he did.  He said it himself in the play, when he speaks to Dr. Frankenstein of reading Paradise Lost: "I know I should identify with Adam, but it's Satan I feel closer to. Cast out of heaven for being himself." Or something like that. As I said, it's been two weeks, and I have no recording with me to go back to for the exact line.

I am also blown away that the story sprang from the mind of a girl of 19, living in a time and place when most women of her age and station were expected to sit quietly and embroider. Granted, she had an unusual upbringing and was surrounded by extraordinarily unconventional people. But can you just imagine if the rest of the women of that time had been given free rein to learn, to question, to write, to paint, generally to do what they wanted? How many more amazing things would we have to marvel at?

I think I need to go read the book, now. I want to make sure that everything I saw was from Mary Shelley, not just interpreted by a 21st century playwright.

Side note: I really like this trend of beaming live theater and opera worldwide. There are things I'd never get to see if they didn't do this. I would never have realized I do in fact like opera, now that they caption it so that I can read what's being sung.

Added later: I've found a trailer for the performance on YouTube. So you can see at least a little of what I saw.

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