This week’s NT at Home Production was an amazing rendition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller switch between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature in different performances so you can you can pick which to watch. Last night’s premiere saw Cumberbatch play The Creature and Jonny Lee Miller portray Victor Frankenstein alongside a wonderfully talented cast, including Naomie Harris, Karl Johnson and George Harris.
The play begins with The Creature coming to life and learning how to walk. I was taken immediately by the powerful emotion of the play and its emphasis on the treatment of those who are different from the societal norm. Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of The Creature instantly builds a sympathetic connection with the audience. He is shunned and attacked by society, the only companion he finds is a blind man that cannot be horrified by his appearance. As a result I spent the majority of the first half silently crying for The Creature’s loneliness and lack of identity. The emotional focus of this production, I think, is its strongest feature. I felt emotionally tied to The Creature from beginning to end and for that reason I thought Cumberbatch’s performance was outstanding.
Continually ill treated by the rest of humankind The Creature builds an understanding of his fellow man from the negativity he sees in them. Consequently, the play raises questions of nature versus nurture. Is The Creature the monster everyone perceives him to be or are his monstrous qualities the results of the abuse he receives? The communication between The Creature and Victor Frankenstein is a really intriguing exploration into this debate. Their relationship interchanges between a likeliness to father and son, master and servant, God and Adam and back again. The link being their dependancy upon each other, they are not themselves without the other, as much as they may hate their counterpart they are irreversibly connected. Miller does a wonderful job of switching between each of these roles, revealing the consequences of human pride and jealousy.
While there is an undeniable link to religion throughout the production I think the direction of the play brings a lot of contemporary themes to the forefront. The vanity of today’s culture, valuing appearance above all else; the rejection and ill treatment of those who do not fit to societal norms and the tragic impact a lack of kindness and sympathy can cause a person.
Conclusion: I was affected by this play far more than I thought I would be. I was not expecting the powerful emotional performances or to see such topical subjects being discussed. I found it moving and compelling throughout and, therefore, strongly recommend that you find the time to watch it.
You can now pick whether to watch Cumberbatch or Miller play The Creature and I’d love to hear what people think of Miller’s performance.
Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature:
Jonny Lee Miller as The Creature: