REVIEW: Frankenstein

Molly O’Connor wishes this show had stayed in the grave.

ADC ben walsh Cambridge Corpus Playroom frankenstein mary shelley Tab Theatre toby marlow

I really, really wanted to like Frankenstein. 

I came into this show excited to see Mary Shelley’s masterpiece brought to life (no pun intended) in full 90s grunge style. The pre-set seemed promising, with Toby Marlow’s creature lying limp in a bathtub while Ben Walsh as Frankenstein swaggered purposefully around the set littered with exposed wires and Oasis posters. But it all went down hill as soon as the play actually started.

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Ben Walsh as Frankenstein

Now I understand that it took some very strenuous physical acting for Toby Marlow to portray the Creature at its earliest stages of life, but seriously that first scene where he’s learning to walk could have been considerably shorter and still have been effective. Similarly, the scene where the Creature was experiencing nature for the first time felt somewhat trite. The fact that it was set to the schmaltzy ‘Champagne Supernova’ did not help and scenes of this nature dominated the first half.

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Toby Marlow as the Creature

I’d like to stress that Ben Walsh and Toby Marlow are both clearly excellent actors. The only times the show truly came alive was when the two of them were on stage together, particularly at the beginning of the second half. If anything could have saved this show it was these two.

However, they were let down by a supporting cast whose performances came across as stilted, fake and bordering on pantomime at points. Aurélian Guéroult was a serial offender, his robotic speech made his scenes drag on and his attempt to portray grief was so ludicrous that members of the audience around me struggled to contain their laughter. Dialogue between the characters also seemed shallow and artificial, the conversations between Felix (Tom Taplin) and Agatha (Amy Malone) being prime examples.

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Toby Marlow as the Creature and Julia Kass as Elizabeth

It almost felt as though the cast didn’t quite believe in the show and so weren’t able to fully commit themselves to it. It’s difficult for an audience to invest themselves in a story when they feel that the cast can’t do so themselves. Even when scenes of violence, rape and murder occurred on the stage, they had little emotional impact on the audience as a result.

On the positive side, the set was impressive and highly versatile, transitioning seamlessly between a mad scientist’s laboratory to a remote cottage in the woods. The multiple levels had a lot of dramatic potential, though they probably could have been used more. The lighting and sound ran smoothly, with no major first night hiccoughs.

But all in all, this mishmash of dodgy parts didn’t manage to come together and I was sorely disappointed.

1.5/5 stars