Frankenstein: A Creature Misunderstood

This successful play from London’s National Theatre was screened recently at NCPA, Mumbai. The play, which released in 2011, also marked the comeback of Oscar-winning director, Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) to theatre, something he calls a ‘15-year distraction’, while he was engaged in making movies. Although, the drama based on Mary Shelley’s novel is set in the early 19th century, it has a resonance of the 21st century, because society is still largely troubled by people who are different from usual perception, something that has become the norm, both cosmetically and politically.

Two extremely-talented actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller are seen reversing their roles as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and The Creature (called Adam initially, then Frankenstein, after its creator). As per the director, Danny Boyle’s statement, the two actors play each other on consecutive nights, and this, one has to admit, is a fantastic transformation. What’s also most interesting to notice here is that both Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller have donned the roles of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, on two different TV series, Sherlock on BBC and Elementary on CBS, respectively.

I recently got the chance to watch the screening of this famous play that has had many re-runs at the Royal National Theatre. What you see is a rather grotesque-looking monster who was ‘artificially’ created by an eccentric scientist, Victor Frankenstein. A monster that is absolutely childlike and innocent, and knows not why he was brought into the world. A monster who was abandoned and subsequently loathed by all who encountered him. This friendless creature goes along to find a blind man who instantly befriends him because he also happens to be the only man who does not judge the creature by its looks. He learns to read and speak and as the season’s change, the monster, now called Adam, is capable of a complete conversation. A notable achievement would also be the reference to Milton’s Paradise Lost. The Creature aka Adam thence decides to find his creator via the journal that lay in the coat pocket he was wearing when he was abandoned at the beginning of this story. A vengeful Adam is determined to find Victor Frankenstein and ask him the reason of his existence, since he did not ask to be born in the first place. This is also when you would find the urgent concerns of scientific responsibility surfacing, a certain amount of parental neglect, slow but sure cognitive development as well as the nature of good and evil, all of which are successfully embedded in this deeply disturbing classic tale.

The end is sure, it is inevitable. Man vs. Monster, or Monster vs. Man. A resolve that is stemmed out of treason, the victory of the good over the evil and a deal that could have led to a harmonious life for one and all, but one mistake changed it all. Watch the beautiful sets and the brilliant direction of this classic tale in Danny Boyle’s style all with the fabulous light and sound work.

The actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, shared both the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards’ Best Performance by an Actor in a Play was awarded to Benedict Cumberbatch.

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