nick730 (nick730) wrote,

Theatre review: Frankenstein (Cumberbeast version)

vanessaw's turn to accompany me to the Olivier for Frankenstein, this time to see the second configuration, with Jonny Lee Miller taking on the scientist and Benedict Cumberbatch his creation. (My review of the show cast the other way round.) My response to the overall production is much the same, although if anything seeing it twice highlights even more the weaknesses of Nick Dear's adaptation, Danny Boyle's visual flair not having the element of surprise to help distract from them this time.

For those people who complained at the lack of detail in this regard last time, here as the Creature it's Cumberbatch's turn for a sustained opening scene ofFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!and in this regard at least I have to say Miller wins. He's about average himself but today I was rather hoping for his own sake that Cumberbatch is a grower (sorry, people who've developed a post-Sherlock crush on him.) JLM also wins in the overall body and quivering buttock stakes, although that's obviously down to a matter of personal taste.

Back to an attempt at a more serious review, it's interesting to see the difference in the two actors' performances although they're not as glaring as you might expect. The earlier configuration always seemed more obvious to me and after seeing both versions I agree that it's the better one, but people who are seeing only the Cumberbeast version shouldn't feel short-changed, it's not a huge difference in quality. Cumberbatch's creature is a bit camper than Miller's but his lengthy opening silent scene is as well-acted albeit, I thought, with a bit more physical comedy thrown in. He seems better suited to Frankenstein - he has some of the autistic quality that the programme notes claim for him, while Miller's version of the doctor is more of an obsessive. One way where Cumberbatch suits the creature better is in appearance: Miller has shaved his head to play the Creature but (presumably because of Sherlock's upcoming filming) Cumberbatch hasn't, which means they both wear hairpieces when playing it this way round. The weird bald cap with bits of sprouting hair adds to his grotesque appearance, which is apt since his ugliness is such a plot point; whereas Miller's Creature just looks like a good-looking man who's sustained some horrific scars.

Elsewhere, female nudity isn't normally something you'd expect to see mentioned here but I know I'm not the only person taken aback at the muff on Andreea Padurariu's Female Creature. I mean a merkin's one thing, but somewhere a front door's missing its welcome mat. Back on more familiar territory, Mark Armstrong as Rab is very cute (and actually gets to be properly visible on stage, with a couple of lines and everything, after essentially being part of the set in Men Should Weep.) And if you bought the programme and saw the drawing of Mary Shelley in it you'll understand why she was drawn to tales of body horror, since she clearly had her head on backwards. Vanessa loved it, and for her there was an extra treat as, despite many previous trips to the Olivier she'd never seen the Drum Revolve (which seems to have been in semi-retirement for a couple of years) used properly. So seeing it here for the first time and from so close up (I had similar seats to last time) drew a "wow" from her in itself.

Frankenstein by Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley is in repertory until the 2nd of May at the National Theatre's Olivier; returns only.
Tags: benedict cumberbatch, jonny lee miller, theatre, theatre reviews

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