Tag Archives: mary shelley

FRANKENSTEIN [Part 2]

ohmygoodness, this is so overdue–apologies all around~~

CONTINUING FROM LAST TIME:

Following’s the Monster’s miraculous ascend, a man stumbles upon him. This is Victor Frankenstein, the creator. Frankenstein is stunned at the moving creature and throws a large red cape over the Monster. Frightened and confused, the Monster leaves Victor stunned at the perfection of his own creation.

There is a strange sequence involving a rowdy group of men and women. Thumping, rhythmic music plays (I like Underworld, but not in the context. To be honest, this musical-sque section of the play was my least favourite.) as they flirt and drink. Later on, the Monster learns about fire (by accidentally burning himself on a stolen cooking pot) and is ridiculed by humans. This doesn’t bode well.

We switch to a homely small house – its occupants are one blind elderly man, and a sickeningly sick couple. The couple leaves for the fields and the Monster creeps up to the house. Having no sight, the old man (De Lacey) welcomes the strangely silent stranger. This is the Monster’s first taste of human warmth and he quickly befriends De Lacey, who, upon discovering that the Monster does not speak (De Lacey assumed it’s due to some sort of PTSD), teaches him the English language. I love love love this entire sequence. The Monster is like a child, fascinated and by the world and so happy that there is someone to introduce all its beauty to him. As the Monster begins to grasp basic language skills, his queries become more sophisticated. He begins to question his existence, he wonders why he is in pain, in emotional pain be cause his creator abandoned him.

For instance (from here):

De Lacey:  There are two school of thought. One says that we are all made imperfect, and require the assistance of a higher authority—a deity—to overcome the sin of being born. The other school of thought—to which I subscribe—insists that when we leave the womb we are pure, that a babe in arms is untainted by sin, that evil is the product of social forces, and that God has nothing to do with how a man turns out, be it good or be it bad.

Creature:  Me not do bad things.

De Lacey:  I know you do not do bad things. You have a good heart. I know that.

Creature:  Why my hungry?

De Lacey:  Eh?

Creature:  Why my hungry? Why no food for me?

De Lacey:  I give you half of my food.

Creature:  Still hungry.

De Lacey:  It is the condition of men to be hungry.

Creature (jabbing a finger at his books):  Not kings! Not emperors!

De Lacey (laughs):  You’re learning fast.

Creature:  Why my not a king?

De Lacey:  I don’t know. Perhaps you are.

Creature:  Yes! A king! Is my name?

De Lacey:  I don’t know.

Creature:  King what?

De Lacey:  You have never told me your name.

Creature:  Gnaaagh! Never heard. Not know.

De Lacey:  You are a poor lost thing.

——————-

  • De Lacey: It is night in the Garden of Eden. Do you see the moon?
  • Creature: There. There it is.
  • De Lacey: Describe it to me.
  • Creature: Solitary.
  • De Lacey: That’s a good word. Good.
  • Creature: And sad, like me.
  • De Lacey: Why is it sad?
  • Creature: Because it is solitary.
  • De Lacey: Why are you sad?
  • Creature: Because with all that I read, all that I learn, I discover how much I do not know. Ideas batter me like hailstones. Questions but no answers. Who am I? Where am I from? Do I have a family?

He knows that there is something about his appearance that is disturbing and terrifying to other people. After many a time of De Lacey assuring him that his daughter and son-in-law are lovely, non-judgemental folks, the Monster allows himself to be seen.

Of course, it’s catastrophic. The Monster, feeling utterly betrayed and hurt, flees.

And it is here that he begins his moral descent.

LINGERING THOUGHTS:

  1. I loved the Monster’s relationship with the old man, even though it had to end. There was so much humour, truth and goodness between the two.

Creature:  White! What? White! What?
De Lacey:  Where?
Creature:  In the air!
De Lacey:  That’s snow. It’s not very interesting—a natural phenomenon, no more. Now please stop leaping about, we need to concentrate.
Creature:  Snow! Snow!
De Lacey:  Sit! We’ve work to do.

The Creature sits at a pile of books, rather grumpily.

2. I found the couple really irritating. They were over the top with cheeriness. And of course, the reason for the Monster’s ill-natured transformation.

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National Theater: FRANKENSTEIN [Encore Screening] PART 1

After a needless but painful kerfuffle, I made my way to the local cinema to watch an encore screening of Frankenstein, a National Theater (UK) production directed by Danny Boyles (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) and led by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.I was not a great fan of the original novel Mary Shelley (published in 1818). I think I was too young, maybe pre-teens, and the story horrified me. Thus, I was a little apprehensive going into this theatrical revival.

One of the things that contributed to the play’s successful run in 2011 was that Benedict and Jonny actually alternated the roles of Victor and the Monster every other night. But the Monster is, without a doubt, the meatier role of the two. In this production, we don’t actually meet Frankenstein by name until 40 minutes into the play. Nonetheless, my recent history of appreciation upon rediscovering initially “balked at” works urged me to give Frankenstein a second chance.  And the lure of Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays the Monster in this case) helped too – so there goes my twenty bucks.

Thinking back, it was more than worth it.  SPOILERS GALORE BELOW

The show began with a brief overview of how the production came together: the writing, the casting (Benedict only wanted the part because of the reversed roles), the direction, the acting (both actors took movement classes to hone their interpretation of the Monster’s manner of moving. Jonny, for instance, said that he became an infant in his turn as the Monster.)

 

 

After the few words from the writer (Nick Dear) and the director, the screen dimmed.

First, we see a circling shot of what seem to be a huge cluster of stars – the lens zoom to show us they are in fact, countless twinkling light bulbs dangling from the ceiling, lighting the stage.

The stage is dark, safe for a strange upright womb-like sack. There is something within its semitransparent film and it’s pulsating with increasing intensity. After a good minute of struggle, the thing manages to get its legs out of the sack. An explosion of light from the ceiling signals another crack in the sack – and the thing, all contorted, slides onto the floor, trembling. This is our Monster.

It’s a human shaped creature, with a bald head and crude surgical stitches inches long all over its body.  Its limbs flail, shaking like mad. At first, he (obvious by the loincloth) tries to crawl. But like a baby zebra, can’t muster the energy to hold his arms straight. He falls to the floor again and again with loud thuds and grimaces, and still, he cannot support his own body. After many attempts, he finally manages to lift himself up. From then on, the progress is quicker, and easier – eventually rising unsteadily but triumphantly to his feet. Within moments, the Monster is galloping in circles, howling with delight.

I’m sorry I can’t remember where I got this photo from – but it’s everywhere on tumblr.

LINGERING THOUGHTS:

  1. Benedict’s body is UNREAL. I recall someone commenting that it was akin to a boxer’s physic – and they are right. But gosh, going through that beat every night must have been torture.
  2. The Monster does not speak (intelligibly) for at least 20min. It’s incredible how expressive and powerful body language can be. Like good old fashioned silent films, Benedict was able to convey a wealth of meaning through sheer physicality. 15min into the play, when the Monster first stands firmly on his feet, inwardly I was applauding him.
  3. Initially, i was going to do just one post for the review – but that’s just not possible. The next post will conclude Act 1.

new old books

My new found appreciation for all things Benedict Cumberbatch led me to a surprising reveal: Frankenstein’s Monster.

I’ve never (and stil aren’t, save for this exception) been a fan of horror or gothic works simply because I can’t handle gore and frights. I had read much about Mary Shelley (and her famous parents, in fact) for a biography course and to be honest, I didn’t care for her at all.  But whilst reading Roger Ebert’s account of the play – my curiosity got the better of me and I read some snippets of the original story. Let me just say that they stunned me. Horrifying words, yes, but stunning words none the less.

~~~On another note, I saw Third Star recently and it rather cemented my love for Cumberbatch (it’s not just those eyes, I swear!) The story is predictable (but it’s meant to be, the protagonist tell the audience he’s got terminal cancer-and SPOILER ALERT! of course he dies from it by the end of the film) but that’s part of its magic: The audience is dreading the end, just as Tim’s (played by Cumberbatch… DUH) family and friends dread the end-no matter how much fun and laughter there is before that end. That dread makes all the happier scenes almost too painful to watch.

Without spoiling the ending (ha!), here are Cumberbatch’s last lines in the movie:

                And so I raise a morphine toast to you all, and if you happen to remember it’s the anniversary of my birth, remember that you were loved by me, and you made my life a happy one, and there’s no tragedy in that—THIRD STAR

If that alone doesn’t raise a decent lump in your throat, what will?