A.J. Odasso (ajodasso) wrote,
A.J. Odasso
ajodasso

Review: Frankenstein (Reverse) @ National Theatre, 24 March 2011


Given there's no way I was going to score live tickets for my second viewing (I was lucky enough to have them the first time around), I ended up booking a ticket for tonight's broadcast at Stratford Picture House. My comments this time will be much more brief, as I've already commented at great length on the astonishing effect of the sets and music in my previous review. If anything, the broadcast dulled these aspects somewhat: the lighting sometimes didn't translate well onto the screen, and the bell didn't make me jump out of my skin. The lights weren't half as blinding, either. And although this insulation might sound pleasant, those effects are rather crucial to the overall experience. The only real benefit to be had from the broadcast is the close-ups of the actors' faces. That make-up job remains unparalleled.

Having seen both versions now, in broad terms, I honestly don't prefer one over the other.

I'm one of those people who does tend to fall one one side of a fence or another. I have strong opinions, and when an interpretation of something I hold dear rubs me the wrong way, my whole world's going to know before long. This play already has my heart for remaining truer to the novel than any other dramatization I've ever seen, and now both of the lead actors have my heart for being able to play both roles with equal skill.

However, the devil is, as they say, in the details.

There are some minor points on which I feel one or the other does have a bit of an edge. For instance, I'm falling afoul of all the critics in preferring Jonny's Victor to Benedict's: I prefer that grounded sense of warmth that seems to fly entirely in the face of his cerebral arrogance. Benedict's Victor is much colder, more withdrawn, and I found myself in some scenes wanting Jonny's Victor back. This stance has a fascinating reverse effect: when it comes to the Creature, I think that Benedict has the slight upper hand. I found his handling of the creature's physicality, development, and diction much more believable. Jonny's Creature progresses too quickly and smoothly for my liking; his movements from the beginning are much too coordinated. In the featurette at the start of the broadcast, both actors made some comments that allowed me to make sense of my preference in this regard: Benedict used stroke and crash survivors' progress toward re-learning their bodies as his influence, whereas Jonny says his version of the Creature was influenced by watching his two year-old son. It makes intuitive sense to me that already grown individuals who have lost use of limbs/their bodies or have forgotten would make a better psychological model in the case of dead flesh re-animated. I hope none of this sounds odd or insensitive.

Other random observations: they seem to have tightened up the flow from scene to scene. The loincloths on both the Creature and the Bride Creature looked vaguely ridiculous, especially after having seen the version containing nudity. I'm still as transfixed by the slow, eerie movements of the not-quite-living Bride Creature as I was on the first viewing. That'll stay with me for a long time, and it'll doubtless serve as inspiration for the short story that's next on my writing docket. Meanwhile, I'm reaching for Shelley with my fingers crossed.
Tags: frankenstein, off the map
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