Saturday, 30 November 2013

Frankenstein with NTLive

You know how wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch is?

And you know how wonderful Johnny Lee Miller is in Elementary?

And you remember how fantastic the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle, was?

Wouldn't it be fantastic if there was some way to combine all those wonderful things?

As usual NTLive are way ahead of the curve and found a way to combine all these beauties way back when in 2011 (so before the Olympic opening ceremony or Elementary or the second series of Sherlock, that's how good NTLive are at spotting a good thing (Because obviously none of them had done anything before these things, certainly not won Oscars or been in culturally iconic masterpieces or series one of Sherlock))

This is not the first time I've blogged about NTLive and I highly doubt it will be the last, if you've never heard of it before the short version of the story is in 2009 the National Theatre in London filmed a play while it was being performed and broadcast in live to cinema's around the country. It was a massive success and now broadcasts globally, not only live performances but "Encore" screenings of particularly popular shows.

Frankenstein was one of these. My parents went to see it when it first screened in March 2011 and raved about it, I missed out due to that being the same time as my exams. Since then it has shown multiple times and every time I have missed out, boo! So when I heard rumours of a special screening on All Hallow's Eve at the GFT I was on it faster than the screaming hordes when Harry Styles tweets he's lonely and looking for love. (Yes, we are all going to just quietly ignore the fact that Hallowe'en was a month ago and I waited until now to post this, I've been very busy not doing my dissertation)

The Glasgow Film Theatre is an independent cinema that opened in 1939 it screens a wide variety of international cinema, classic films and documentaries alongside locally made work and material aimed at a range of community groups. In total, it shows over 600 different films every year, of which 60% are foreign-language. [x]

As usual they showed some behind the scenes rehearsals and had a quick chat with director and leading men. One of things Danny Boyle said this version of Frankenstein was trying to do was give the Creature back his voice, so much has been built off the 1939 film version were the Creature is a lumbering, groaning monster which isn't at all true to the book and frankly makes the entire story far duller than it ought to be. Mary Shelley's book is a brilliantly intelligent exploration in the nature of humanity and reducing the Creature the amount the film did is almost offensive.

The book is told mostly from Frankenstein's perspective (or at least his perspective as recorded by Captain Walton, if you want to be pedantic about it) whereas this production really did focus on the Creature (Cumberbatch) and his journey. I'd say Frankenstein (Miller) was onstage for about 20minutes all together. It worked, it told a very convincing and dramatic story without getting too bogged down, I don't think that it really skipped any of the "action" but at the same time we didn't really get to explore Frankenstein's psyche as much as we could have. (I suppose that kept it from being five hours long, but still)

One of the most interesting parts of it, I found, was the use of silence and lack of dialogue. It wasn't over done and didn't stray too far into artsy-fartsy pretentiousness but it did help the audience to come to terms with the Creature's development. Perfect example of how to show don't tell for any budding story writers out there. The first scene, ten minutes or so, featured Cumberbatch in a loin cloth and a lot of stage make up falling out of the replica womb and coming to terms with his body. He goes from grand mal seizure to writhing to standing and then running. In the pre show chat one of the things Cumberbatch had said was he'd educated his performance by watching videos of how  stroke victims recover and relearn how to use their muscles. It could have gone very badly, but he pulled it off and it really drew the audience in.

I can't think of anything else I want to say that needs to be said, it was spectacular, I was gripped from the start and everyone should go and see it. There are encore screenings playing all over place throughout December, find out more HERE.

(P.S. One of the best bits is Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller swapped roles every night throughout the original stage run and NTLive recorded both versions so you can see it both ways. I'll post a review when I get round to watching JLM as the Creature.)

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