Derby Theatre


This represents a new adaptation by director Sean Aydon from Titled Wig productions based on the original Mary Shelley book, first published 205 years ago in 1818.

Although often billed as a horror story, it also offers the credentials of being regarded as the first science fiction story.

The name "Frankenstein" is frequently used, erroneously, to refer to the monster, rather than to its creator. I approached this reworked version with some trepidation. But theatre at its best can surprise and delight, and this production did exactly that

Aydon makes two bold moves, first the setting is wartime Europe, second Dr Frankenstein is a woman. The latter is a neat twist, as Shelley’s author mother was famous for her own book, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”. It also facilitates a 21st Century interpretation of a 19th century novel into an eldritch tour de force.

The power of the Frankenstein legend lies in a man-made scientific abomination that careers out of control, a theme contemporaneously reflected in the current debate on Artificial Intelligence.

Condensing the original novel and locations onto a stage is no easy task, but somehow it is shoe-horned here into a two-hour production using narration, voice over and monologue to fill the gaps and features that old favourite, a play within a play.

The mood is tense and remote enhanced by Nicky Bunch’s austere set, Matt Haskin’s eerie lighting, and Eamonn O’Dwyer’s spooky sound and music. Frankenstein’s laboratory is spartan, the mountain cabin bleak.

Two characters bestride this tale, Frankenstein herself, and the Creature.

doc and creature

As Victoria Frankenstein, Eleanor McLoughlin has considerable fun with the gender changed role and the possibilities it offers, obsessive, sedulous, querulous and aware, eschewing personal relationships for her work. She plays the straight role opposite the magnificent, nuanced Creature of Cameron Robertson, part laboratory freak, part human. Missy Brazier’s Make Up, Wigs & Prosthetics work is outstanding.

The world war two setting enables Aydon to weave in some Nazi allusions and an eugenics theme. State sponsored doctor Richter is introduced seeking to create super humans and a master race. Basienka Blake is part fascist authoritarian, and part Dominatrix, as other worldly in her own way as The Creature, also playing the mysterious Captain.

The master race dimension is reprised by Frankenstein’s assistant, Francine, a person of restricted growth whose capacity to work on the complex project is questioned by Dr Richter. Annete Hannah is particularly strong in the part of Francine who presses Frankenstein on whether she should look to improve her as she had done with the Creature. Frankenstein’s partner Henry (Dale Mathurin) is a man of colour, again at odds with an Aryan Master Race.

This is a satisfying reboot for Frankenstein from a talented cast who make the pivotal gender and location changes work. There is plenty of dry ice, Gothic horror fans will not be disappointed, and the Frankenstein weekend at Whitby will have some new characters next time around.

It is an ambitious production which pays off in most areas. The bloody, tumultuous finale would make Quentin Tarantino jealous. Literary and philosophical references abound. Aydon is brave to take on John Milton and Shakespeare. However he makes the story his own by bookending the opening and closing scenes in a powerful dramatic device.

Although Mary Shelley’s story has been around for a long time, this interpretation is fresh as a daisy. See it.

Gary Longden


Frankenstein plays at Derby until 23rd Sept, then continues touring the UK until November 2023 at eleven venues. For more information and tour dates, visit the Tilted Wig website.  

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