“The perfect show for a spooky Halloween night…

It’s Halloween, which means it’s the perfect time for watching Sixth Side’s production of ‘Frankenstein.‘ In this gritty and emotionally nuanced performance of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, ambitious scientist Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with discovering the secrets of creation but is horrified when his experiments succeed in creating a sapient creature. The creature turns to malice after being shunned by all humankind – including his own creator – and begins to haunt Victor’s every move with the intent of enacting murderous retribution on his uncaring creator.

This production is performed in Trevelyan College’s own theatre, which is a very intimate venue with in-the-round seating. This compact venue gives you a front seat to the emotional turmoil and violence of this gothic tale and the direction allows this piece to be enjoyed to the full no matter where you sit. The stage is perhaps a touch too small however, feeling slightly overcrowded during ensemble scenes at the start of the show, but as the show goes on the spacing improves and scenes feel far less cluttered as the actors appear to grow more confident and move downstage.

The set is minimal but well-utilised. While a greater use of lighting effects could have elevated the set further, building more atmospheric tension befitting of such a gothic piece, the addition of sound effects really helps to create many distinct locations: from the Ingolstadt laboratory, where the creature is brought to life, to a ship trapped in arctic ice flows.

The acting is the true standout of this production. Every performer fully embodies the inner emotional conflict of their characters through masterful use of gestures and facial expressions.

The two standout actors for me are Scout Pemberton as Victor Frankenstein and Jamie Strand as the Monster. Scout expertly tows the line between charismatic genius and tortured madman, building both sympathy for Victor’s downfall and disgust at his disregard for the lives of others. Their semi-maniacal laughter as Victor breaks down sounds halfway between joy and despair and their convulsions make it seem that Frankenstein is being physically torn apart by the horror of what he created. Jamie’s physicality and voice really encapsulate the miserable and scorned creature. The eloquence and refinement with which he speaks juxtaposes the anger and misery he infused into the creature’s voice through his rough and halting tone. His posture and movement emphasise the disconnect between the mismatch of body parts that the creature was created from. He captures the duality of the creature perfectly by conveying both sides of the creature’s genesis: the reanimated dead body and the newborn child experiencing life for the first time.

Alysia Orbell as Elizabeth subtly conveys the nuanced emotion and difficulty of life for women in the 17th century. Her use of facial expressions is masterful throughout, and it is clear to see her conflict between her duty and her true thoughts.

Rose Ormond as Henry Clerval provides much-needed light and levity to this production. Her use of theatrical, overexaggerated gestures and upbeat tone effectively juxtaposes the gritty, gothic elements of the play. The kindness and joy she infuses into Clerval sets Scout’s portrayal of Victor’s brutal disregard for the creature into even sharper contrast.

Sixth Side’s production of Frankenstein is complex and gritty, leaving room for discussion on who the true monster is in this tale – Frankenstein or the creature. Perhaps it is neither and the true villain is society itself.  This is a thoroughly enjoyable performance of Frankenstein with truly incredible acting, the perfect show for a spooky Halloween night at the theatre.

By Lauley Exton

Frankenstein will show its final performance at 18:30 in the Trevs Dowrick Suite on the 31st of October.

Photo Credits: Sixth Side Theatre