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Frankenstein: Lichfield Review

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Amazing Puppet Creature Is Feature Of Classic Gothic Horror
I'm pretty sure that Frankenstein's monster never looked like this. The classic appearance of the Creature, as famously depicted in early horror films, usually incorporating bolts sticking out of its neck, has been brilliantly replaced by a full-size 6'4" puppet in this superb new adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic novel.

Victor Frankenstein (Ben Warwick) gazes on his creation

The puppet, which needs up to three people to manipulate it, has been amazingly designed and built by Yvonne Stone whose previous credits include Warhorse and His Dark Materials. It is suitably sinister and creepy in both appearance and movement and works perfectly with the production's use of Bunraku-style puppetry - a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre dating back to the beginning of the 17th century which also incorporated live music, in particular drums.

Lara Cowin as Elizabeth, Ashley Sean-Cook as Capt Walton and Ben Warwick as Frankenstein

This excellent adaptation by John Ginman, which is produced by Blackeyed Theatre In association with South Hill Park, called in to the Lichfield Garrick theatre on February 17 as part of its UK tour. Despite this fresh, exciting telling of Shelley's romantic, gothic horror, her timeless story of the 'mad' scientist Victor Frankenstein and his obsession to discover the secret of creation itself is faithfully told in Blackeyed Theatre's production.

Ashley Sean-Cook as ship's captain Robert Walton

The adapted story begins when Frankenstein, superbly played by Ben Warwick, is found in the frozen wastes by a ship, captained by Robert Walton (Ashley Sean-Cook), that has become ice-bound as it tries to find the North Pole. It quickly becomes clear that Frankenstein is desperately searching for his Creature, and so the story of the monster's creation is told in flashback. This takes the audience back to Geneva in 1816 when Frankenstein starts out on his increasing obsession to unravel nature's secrets. But instead of his hoped-for beautiful being the result is a 'hideous creature from hell'. And Frankenstein's subsequent rejection of his creation inevitably sets it on a path of rage and destruction.

The 6ft 4in puppet of the Creature took up to 3 people to manipulate it

Blackeyed Theatre's new stage adaptation, which marks the 200th anniversary of the creation of Frankenstein, benefits from a splendid five-strong cast. As well as their acting duties, which they all perform excellently, the majority of the performers also have to manipulate the Creature and play a variety of atmosphere-setting musical instruments, although one over-loud drumming session in the second half had me almost putting my fingers in my ears. As well as Ben Warwick and Ashley Sean-Cook, the excellent cast is made up of Lara Cowin as Victor's 'cousin' Elizabeth Lavenza, Max Gallagher as Victor's best friend Henry Clerval, and Louis Labovitch as the occasionally terrifying voice of the Creature. The production is supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Max Gallagher as Henry, Ben Warwick as Frankenstein and Lara Cowin as Elizabeth

Rating: 4 out of 5

Forthcoming UK tour dates

Feb 21 Civic Theatre Chelmsford 01245 606505
Feb 22 EM Forster Theatre Tonbridge 01732 304241
Feb 23 Cornerstone Didcot 01235 515144
Feb 24 Sandpit Theatre St Albans 01727 799565
Feb 27 - 28 Auden Theatre Holt 01263 713444

Mar 1 Key Theatre Peterborough 01733 207239
Mar 2 Palace Theatre Newark 01636 655755
Mar 3 - 4 Carriageworks Leeds 0113 376 0318
Mar 7 - 9 Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 01284 769505
Mar 10 The Broadway Barking 020 8507 5607
Mar 11 Gulbenkian Theatre Canterbury 01227 769075
Mar 14 - 15 Town Hall Loughborough 01509 231914
Mar 16 Grand Theatre Lancaster 01524 64695
Mar 18 Town Hall Bishop Aukland 03000 269524
Mar 21 - 22 Lighthouse Poole 01202 280000
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Why? Brilliant New Adaptation Of Classic Horror Story
When: 17 Feb to 22 Mar 2017
Phone: 01543 412121
Where: Lichfield Garrick, Castle Dyke, Lichfield WS13 6HR
Cost: Lichfield tickets 17, students 12.50
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by Tony Collins on 07/01/2017
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