A very modern Prometheus: reviewing EUTCo’s production of Frankenstein
Manon Martini, Arts + Lit Editor, reviews the University of Exeter Theatre Company’s rendition of Frankenstein at the Northcott Theatre.
Setting the bar for student theatre, EUTCo’s production of Frankenstein comes as a thoughtfully revitalised approach to what could easily be a stale retelling of the novel we’ve been forced to read since high school.
The production opens with a freakishly surreal dance sequence as the Creature (Poppy Hill) staggers across the stage, weaving through the ensemble like an injured stray on a crowded street. Hill’s bodily movement is outstanding from start to finish. The development of her stance as the Creature gains dexterity is spot on, and she maintains a thousand-yard stare throughout as the emotional trauma of the Creature’s origin rests behind her eyes.
Compliments to the costume curators, Anna Kane, Finn Atkin, Angelica Austin and Izzy Maunder, for their nuanced yet evocative outfit designs. The linear tears across the creature’s top as well as Elizabeth’s wire outerwear is neatly suggestive of the skeletal structure. The patchwork shirt the Creature wears for the latter half of the play speaks to Mary Shelley’s original description of his appearance: ‘His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath’.
A review of EUTCo’s Frankenstein cannot ignore the selective gender-swapped casting and its impact on the story. Directors, Lilly Butcher and Chlöe Hallsworth’s choice to cast the creature as female felt intentional as she was excluded and beaten by the insidiously judgmental world around her. The visibly queer relationship between the Creature and her companion becomes an escape from a wickedly homophobic society that casts out those who are different. The selective gender-swapped casting extends to the character of Delacey (Lucy Portalaska), also played by a woman. Delacey is one of the only characters in the play to treat the Creature with true love and kindness due to her blindness. Portalaska’s skillful acting, despite being blindfolded for the entirety of her role, shows immense trust in her castmates as well as an ability to portray an urgent appeal for inclusion in an age of division.
With a queer viewing of the production in mind, the flawed logic of Victor Frankenstein (Matt Page) becomes apparent as his double standards and hypocrisy rail against the social rationality the monster comes to represent. ‘Please, do not be inconsistent, I find it infuriating’, cries the creature, as Frankenstein performs mental acrobatics to justify why she shouldn’t be granted a companion of her own.
The flawed logic of Victor Frankenstein (Matt Page) becomes apparent as his double standards and hypocrisy rail against the social rationality the monster comes to represent.
Agatha (Carys Morgan) and Felix’s (Nathaniel Mitchell) relationship was intoxicatingly romantic to the point where it felt like they were in a different play altogether. The ease and Disney-like joy they were granted contrasted with the queer heartache that runs through the play, thus highlighting the privileged social simplicity of heterosexual relationships.
The lighting designer, Morgan Budd, also deserves an honourable mention: their brilliant light work throughout the show which really brought the whole piece to life.
EUTCo’s production of Frankenstein was vibrantly creative and it writes an important message into the story’s rich legacy. I really enjoyed this fresh approach and look forward to seeing what the company comes up with next.