Think of Frankenstein and you’re probably picturing the eponymous green monster, or any number of badly made horror films. Not so the case with Isabel Dixon’s beautifully stylish reimagining, now playing at The Space Arts Centre. This Frankenstein has an atmospheric, gothic feel that literally sends chills down your spine.
The famous Dr. Frankenstein is replaced by a close relation, Elizabeth. The family name still proceeds her, but after losing most of her family to a plague, she becomes more focused on her study of medicine, and experimenting with bringing cadavers back to life.
It will come as no surprise that she succeeds, and unleashes The Creature, an action which sees her travelling the globe in an attempt to first flee, and then destroy the monster she has created. All the time keeping the truth from her beloved Henry Clerval.
The staging is particularly creative here. Presented in the round, there is effectively no back-stage area, so when a character isn’t in front of you, they are usually behind you, creeping about in the shadows, perhaps changing costume or adding a voice to a crowd scene. Whatever they are doing, you can feel their presence and it certainly heightens the tension in the room.
Costumes and make-up are used very effectively to highlight the gothic theme, sunken eyes and porcelain skin give, even the living characters, a deathly glow. The Creature truly looks like a freshly dug corpse has been jolted back in to existence, thanks to the tattered clothes and blood red gashes across her face and body.
With a story-telling format, director Katherine Timms has ensured a dreamlike quality exists throughout the production, gentle music punctuates the softer moments, while terrific movement keeps the audience mesmerised by what is happening in front of them. A few songs creep in to the action too, beautifully sung by Charlotte Peak and Sarah Lawrie.
As The Creature, Elizabeth Schenk is magnificent, eliciting just the right balance of terror and pity from the audience. Danielle Winter, as Elizabeth Frankenstein portrays the taught emotion with ease, and guides the narrative with slick precision. Taking on multiple roles, including Henry Clerval, Carlton Venn gives an exceptional performance, with each character feeling distinct and well-rounded.
Isabel Dixon’s version of Frankenstein breathes new life in to an old story. The setting of The Space Arts Centre certainly helps to give the production the right ambience, but the writing and staging is capable of this alone. The cast do an incredible job and the whole production looks and feels beautiful, and all without a neck bolt in sight.