Even though I'm a writer these days, at heart I'm still a stage brat. I studied acting for 5 years, before slowly transitioning to writing scripts, to monologues, to stories. I was always passionate about seeing horror on the stage - I remember going to see "The Bloody Chamber" and being the only person in my class who liked it! That's why I was so thrilled to get to see Northern Stage's "Dr. Frankenstein" last night. Spoiler Free review - go see it, it's really good, and not exactly what you expect.
The main difference between the book and the play is that the protagonist is played by a woman - becoming Dr. Victoria Frankenstein. She is played brilliantly by Polly Frame - an arrogant, intelligent, ambitious woman, unable to connect properly with those she loves, and damaged by two conflicting emotions - grief over the death of a mother she barely knew, and her own atheist, scientific worldview. These, just as much as the pursuit of knowledge, lead to her creating the creature.
More than any version of "Frankenstein" I've ever seen, this play was dealing with family, and the pain of death. As Victoria herself says at one point, she wants to cure death because "it hurts too much, when people die." And yet, her own actions lead to the deaths of people she cares about.
One of the main points that intrigued me about this production was its feminist plot points - Victoria can study science, but, in her time, she can't be a doctor. This was handled beautifully - less is made of what Victoria is or isn't "allowed" to be, and more what is expected of her. Time and again, her family ask her to come home, stay with them, look after the house and, as he ages, her father. They all love each other deeply, but prickle at each other and say thoughtless, hurtful things. It's never stated, but you get the feeling that Victoria is scared that staying at home would force her into a traditional female role, and trap her.
One last note - Victoria spends her first scene in a very plain, dark blue dress. As she moves to Ingolstadt, she unbuttoned the dress at the front - and it became a coat! Underneath, she was wearing a white shirt, and men's trousers, elongating her frame and giving her a more masculine look (and freeing her to gesture in a bigger, more animated way), without it looking like she was dressing up as a man. I'm not a costume expert, but I gasped.
"Dr. Frankenstein" is a really interesting take on the story, and well worth seeing. The same company are also performing Hedda Gabler - an Ibsen play I know nothing about, and I'm really excited to see next week. But, in the meantime, go see "Dr. Frankenstein", if you can. Tickets available here - see it while you can!
Musings on my life as a writer.