With plenty of purple velvet, strobe lighting, smoke and a pre-recorded soundtrack accompanying every scene, this adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel is billed as ‘The Modern Prometheus’. It’s like director Simon James Collier was planning to premiere something at Westfield Vue, but instead ended up in the theatre above the Lion and Unicorn pub.
Take away the many distractions – including scenes with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and the author herself – and Adam Dechanel’s adaptation (part 1 of a Gothic Trilogy) is actually pretty literal. Victor Frankenstein, his love interest/ adopted sister Elizabeth and friends deliver their thoughts and handy plot information into the mid-distance as if each of them has swallowed the book. In trying to fit in every scene, the production struggles get to the essence of the tale – namely, what it means to be human or a monster – until some way into Act II.
It’s difficult for the cast to create anything other than melodrama when delivering their lines to soaring music. Sam Curry brings the twisted body of The Creature to life in a way that is fittingly gruesome. But a temporary wooden stage, which clunks every time the performers jump on and off it, otherwise feels unfortunately appropriate.
Lion and the Unicorn Theatre, London. Until 15 March.
Written for The Stage.