So yesterday, it was my pleasure and privilege to catch Danny Boyle's Frankenstein, Version One on the big screen at Tucson's local indie theatre, The Loft
Version One is Benedict Cumberbach (Sherlock Holmes in BBC's Sherlock) as the Creature and Jonny Lee Miller (Sherlock Holmes in CBS' Elementary) as the Doctor. Version Two airs next Sunday, Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as the Doctor.
Okay, flat out, I missed the first 10-15 minutes due to the fact that I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to catch the show due to my third job. I managed to leave early and drove like a mad person cross-town on my scooter to make it as close to the start as I could. On screen as I walked in was a large woman who had just seen the face of the flailing Creature, setting down a bottle of wine and informing him that "I won't scream. Ima gunna leave this right here and walk away, but m'not gunna scream."
Somehow, that struck me as somewhat sad and poignant, that the fact that she didn't
scream upon seeing him is the fist act of kindness that the Creature receives.
The next few minutes were somewhat jarring, in part because I was attempting make sense of Benedict Cumberbatch flailing around in what amounts to tighty whiteys and a red cloak on a dark floor that has a three foot wide strip of grass growing down the centre and part because I was trying to find a seat in an old-fashion theatre so dark I couldn't tell where the rows began.
Which is when quite voice whispered "There's a seat here." I flailed in their direction, a tiny hand grasping mine in the darkness and directing me to a seat, which turned out to be a lawn chair against the back wall. It was... a slightly surreal moment, to be honest, that brief moment of unseen connection.
The music during this sequence was amazing. It's beautiful and slightly discordant. Later, discovered that the music is done by 'Underworld'. You may have heard of them without realising it, they did 'Born Slippy' on the Transpotting soundtrack. The piece of music here is called Dawn of Eden
, the Creature flailing around and exploring his new strange surroundings, much like a toddler does. Exploring the birds flying by, playing and eating the grass, laughing at the rain. (real water from the ceiling)
The most amazing thing about the set how deceptively simple it is. A vent with the burst of fire becomes a campfire in the forest with nothing behind it. A strip of grass is a field. What looks like a large ribbon comes from the ceiling to make a wharf over a lake on which the Frankenstein Family walks, a mesh box becomes the kindly scholar's isolated house in the forest.
The rotating section also brings things from below, a two storey tall wall with windows, the floor slanted like a ship at see, so the actors are walking literally uphill as they move to the back of the 'room'. Turned one way, it is Victor's rooms. Turned the other way, it is a dark spooky laboratory.
And then, there is the ceiling. I cannot express how phenomenal the ceiling is, this giant swath of hundreds of lightbulbs, different shapes and sizes. They flicker and seem to move, forming clouds dashing across the sky, flash like lighting, twinkle like the stars. The lighting sets the mood in this play like nothing else, and those are just fantastic to watch whenever the camera zooms to them.
Cumberbatch's body language is amazing. The way he stands, he moves, he talks. The slurred speech is not the eloquent polished sentences that Sherlock snaps out, even at its most eloquent, there is a rough gutturals of half-formed syllables. Posture is never quite straight, the weight distribution off, like the spine is curved oddly, the one leg smaller than the other. The sweeping hand motions (guh, the man has gorgeous hands) remind me of the time I worked with Developmentally Disabled, having to always be ready to duck or dodge at enthusiastic or angry wild flailings, the pounding on the chest to signify self, separate from everyone else.
The evolution of his costuming also displays his growth. From the barely modest white wrap at the beginning to a loose dark tunic and rolled pants that gradually unroll and hide his legs, to the unbutton jacket at the end, when he is the most 'mature'. I think it is worth noting that he is always barefoot, never entirely civilised.
In contrast, Miller is crisp, the posture immaculate, body language for the most part contained. He is a gentleman, the intellectual, even in his enthusiasm. The wide sweeping coats that he wears adding a drama to the character, the lack thereof as he descends into his own personal hell as he strives to build his 'perfection'.
... I really don't have much to say about the Doctor, as much of the time I wish to throw things at him for his ceaseless lack of maturity, while the Creature's growth is fascinating. Your mileage may very.
Poor Elisabeth, I do love her. I do believe she loves Victor, even as she does not know the Doctor side of him as much as she wishes to. I wish Elisabeth had more screen time. There are such depths to her, her wish to travel, to learn, to explore. I sometimes wondered if beyond loving Victor, she views her marriage to him as the freedom to get her out of the place that she has been trapped in for most her life.
Something interesting about the cast is something that is probably not "PC" for me to comment on, but both Victor's Father (who had a lovely voice) and Elisabeth were Black, while the rest of the cast are Caucasian. I don't think it's something you'd often see Stateside, which is the only reason why I'm mentioning it.
Watching the play, remembered why I have a love-hate relationship with Frankenstein. There is such sympathy for the Creature, born innocent, yet the world and his experiences eventually becomes as twisted on the inside as he is on the outside, and worse yet, realises it and loathes himself for it. And great annoyance towards the Doctor, who manages to destroy everything he strives for (the Creature, the Bride, and Elisabeth) in his hubris, and comes to hate everyone for it.
Which really, is probably the whole point.
Next Sunday will be interesting, to see the differences in the characters as the actors switch.