Friday, June 29, 2012

Paradise Lost: Frankenstein in Covent Gardens

I had tickets to see Frankenstein filmed from the theatre production, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as the headliners. It was directed by Richard Bean, and adapted from Mary Shelley's book by Nick Dear. I mention all these names because while all the others received the credit they deserved, Nick Dear was not mentioned in the programme, though I feel he also should have his name mentioned. Also, I love writers and am always on the lookout for more people to be a fan of. Mr. Cumberbatch played the Creature in this encore performance, although he alternates that with the part of Victor Frankenstein with Miller.

The play opens with the Creature being born. We see the struggle to get out of a placenta-like womb. Lights that hang from the ceiling like a thousand volts of lightning blaze, and we see how it electrifies the Creature, who jolts in response. An arm twitches independently of the body, and then a leg. He is covered in bruises and cuts, huge gaping holes in his head that are stitched up poorly. You see the struggle of a grown body and adult brain discovering life once more. While his muscles are strong, they are uncoordinated. Slowly, he learns to stand, and later to crawl. By the time he's walking, ten breathtaking minutes have passed. The only sounds are the Creature's occasionally groans and squeals of excitement. He looks like a stroke victim recovering very quickly and remaining unfinished.

And yet, he does learn to walk, and to speak. He is taught by the blind man in the mountains how to read, and does quite a lot of it. He wonders about God, and heaven and hell, and his own fate. He asks where he was born, why he has no name. He speaks in long fluid sentences that go from statements to questions without pause, like, "I have a request Victor Frankenstein what do you say." Again, this brings to mind stroke victim speech.

The theme of paradise plagues us through the entire piece. It is the first word the Creature learns, and it is somehow what he wants, knowing full well that it is out of his reach. All the Creature desires is love--that of his creator's, that of a mate's... even that of humanity's as a whole. And he cannot have it. It is not just because he is ugly, it is because he is different in many ways. He is terrifying to behold, and uncoordinated. He speaks in broken sentences, his head sometimes rolls to one side and stays there. His speech is slurred and labored. But perhaps it is because we are imperfect that we seek paradise. He is well-educated, quoting numerous pieces of literature.

 Simultaneously, we see the young doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who has everything the Creature could ask for. He has a family that loves him and respects his interests. There is Elizabeth, a young and beautiful lady who loves him even though he has made her wait for six years before he will marry her. His father cares deeply for him and struggles to understand his brilliant son. And Frankenstein, with paradise at his fingertips, is bored. He breaks ties and breaks promises. He does not know what to do with himself, so tries to play god.

It is remarkable how jealous he is of the Creature's ability to love.

And I think that's an important question to ask ourselves, in a way. Do we love as deeply as we can? Is there a paradise right here, in front of us, that we are ignoring? And how do we change our fate, to give us the happiness we deserve and desire? How do we love like the Creature, who fought to live--and live like the doctor, who fought to love?

1 comment:

  1. The playwright seems to be asserting that never the twain shall meet. Maybe there is some kind of balance that he thinks we can reasonably attain?