Photo credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/reviews/article-1360112/Danny-Boyles-Frankenstein-The-National-Theatre-life.html
Frankenstein: A Modern Myth screens today on Channel 4 at 11.10pm. Follow the links for the full details:
I was lucky enough to see it as part of the Open City Docs Festival in June 2012.
Cut and pasted from the Open City Docs Fest Website:
Frankenstein: A Modern Myth
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the first and greatest myth of the modern scientific age, has like all enduring masterpieces, touched a nerve at critical points of human progress. Frankenstein haunts our age of global anxiety and unprecedented scientific experimentation like never before.
Frankenstein: A Modern Myth looks at the myth of Frankenstein through the prism of Danny Boyle’s sensational new sell-out production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre. The film features exclusive access to rehearsals and interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature, and with Danny Boyle and writer Nick Dear.
Follow the link for all the details:
This is a write-up of the themes that were highlighted in the documentary and the discussion that took place before and after the documentary was screened.
Frankenstein was written by a 19 year old girl almost 200 years ago.
The relationship between the Creator and the Created Creature, the Father and the Son, the Master and the Slave, is pivotal to the novel and its story.
A major theme in the book, and subsequent film and theatre adaptations, is how far the Creature is human. The status and nature of the Created Creature. In Danny Boyle's version the story is told predominantly from the Creature's point of view and the central role is that of the Creature, not the Creator (Victor Frankenstein).
The play begins with the Creature's birth. The opening scene is when the Creature is born, Victor comes on stage, sees his Creature, and is repulsed by what he sees. He flees the scene, renouncing all responsibility for the Creature, his creation. Victor should be caring for and nurturing the Creature, but he abandons his Creation.
The play then focuses on the consequences of that rejection of the Creature by his Creator, Victor. The real effects of having a lack of love in your life. What happens to a newborn who is neglected and totally abandoned.
In Danny's version, the Creature is given a voice, which is different from many of the film versions. By giving the Creature a voice, and a language, you have given him a brain and an intellect. It also makes the Creature more human. This is a game-changer.
The Creature, like most human beings, wants and needs love. He is lonely. He wants and demands of Victor a female Creature for companionship. He wants a female Creature to provide him with the love that he has lacked so far in his short life. Victor denies him this one comfort in the cruellest possible way. He agrees to create a Creature, shows the Creature his female companion to be, and then murders her before fully bringing her to life, all in front of the Creature. Victor implies that the Creature does not deserve a female Creature or love.
Another theme is what it feels like to be rejected by your Creator purely because the way you look repels him, and to be an outcast from society just because of the way that you look. It looks at how people who look different are treated by society ie they are treated very poorly.
Over the course of the play the Creature commits the most heinous crimes, including rape and murder, and yet you still have empathy and understanding for the Creature, because you see how he is treated by his Creator and by society in general.
The Creature was not born a "Monster" - he becomes that because of what happens to him and because of how he is treated by Victor and by society. The Creature is a sympathetic character; he is an innocent; he behaves in the way that he does because of the things that happen to him; and therefore we are culpable for his actions and his crimes. We are all responsible.
Another theme is slavery - the Creature as the slave of his Master/Creator ie Victor. The Creature is treated appallingly by humans and society in the novel and this was a reflection of the treatment of Black slaves at the time. The Creature is not even afforded the dignity of a name. No dignity. No name. Again, this reflects how slaves were treated as they were stripped of their real names and given their master's (slave) names. So the novel is holding a mirror up to how slaves were treated at the time. Mary Shelley witnessed the plight of the slaves and was moved by their predicament.
Another theme is religion and science. By attempting to create life was Victor challenging God? The predominant view at the time the novel was written was that God had created man. In the novel, Victor attempts to create life ie a man tries to create a man. In attempting to do this, Victor excludes both God and women from the Creation process.
At the time the novel was written, when the vast majority of people believed in God, many ordinary people were suspicious of scientists, and the boundaries of science being pushed on, especially with scientists also wanting to be or to replace God.
Frankenstein is topical in today's world because of further scientific advances in the fields of genetics and cloning. Scientific endeavour and pushing the boundaries is a good thing but it can become dangerous when it becomes an obsession, takes over your every waking moment, and when you are focused on the science to the exclusion of all else, including ethical and moral considerations and the lasting consequences of your actions and your work.
Highly recommended. Please watch!