Archive for April, 2011

Unfeasibly Attractive Girlfriend and I headed off to The National to see “Frankenstein” last night. It was her first time, my second (the two leads, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch are alternating the roles of Frankenstein and the Creature, and I wanted to see both casts), and it was every bit as exciting the second time as the first.

Unfeasibly Attractive Girlfriend was slightly miffed that Cumberbatch was playing The Creature on this occasion (partly because I had raved to her about him in the role of Frankenstein, partly, I suspect that she would have been more interested in having a gawp at Jonny Lee Miller’s cock than Benedict Cumberbatch’s – and the first naked ten minutes certainly throws up lots of gawping opportunities), but I was really impressed. Oddly enough, as on the first night I saw it, there were a couple of people who walked out: last night it was an elderly couple next to me, who gave up some eight minutes into the Benedict Cumberbatch flailing penis show, with a protest (albeit whispered) of “This is obscene” (which it really wasn’t) before they went: I wonder how they’d have felt about the full frontal female nudity in the second hour, and the climactic rape of Elizabeth? Artistically justified, perhaps…

On reflection, I have to confess that I think Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein and Lee Miller’s Creature were the best: Cumberbatch’s natural intelligence is so apparent in both roles, that it feels a bit of a loss when one sees Lee Miller (who plays more off a base of hubris and energy, rather than intellectual appetite), and Lee Miller managed to find a danger in the Creature that wasn’t quite there for me when played the other way round.

However, it’s a terrific thing and cavilling of me to introduce any hesitation at all: both of us thought it was magnificent, exciting and scary.  The acting was uniformly brilliant, with Naomie Harris (who appears to have no stage experience, but a glorious and award-bedecked television career behind her) a stand-out as a convincing, brave (and very beautiful) Elizabeth. Nick Dear’s adaptation grew on me throughout the evening and I eventually marvelled at how deftly he had taken all the novel’s themes and minted them for today in a script that managed never to go in for exposition and over-explanation. It felt really fresh, alive and (ironically given that Boyle is surely best known as a garlanded film director) really theatrical, in the best possible way: immediate, brave and visceral.

Danny Boyle has done a terrific thing – and Nick Hytner has too in scoring him for The National. I hope he directs more theatre in the future: I’d love to see it.

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