Frankenstein – National Theatre Live

I’m having a break from Beryl today, as I’m dying to tell you about the film I went to see last night, because if I delayed and you wanted to go, you might have missed it…

Last summer one of the biggest critical smashes in the theatre was Danny Boyle’s production of a new play version of Frankenstein by Nick Dear. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in the lead roles of Victor and the Creature – however they alternated which was a huge success – bringing two slightly different interpretations to the roles.

The National Theatre filmed it and beamed it live (both versions) to cinemas, which was again a bit hit.  I missed it then, but this June – there is a limited season of encore screenings and I saw it at my local multiplex (yes!) yesterday – and it was FANTASTIC!  It’s only on for a little while, so if you’re interested, go to the NT Live homepage where you can find a screening near you.

I saw the version with Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein, which is, I feel the more natural casting, (although I understand it was also brilliant the other way around).

For a near bare stage production, it was totally visually stunning – from the opening moments in which the Creature was born and lay on the stage, twitching and panting, and trying to work out how to stand up, to the shores of Lake Geneva, represented by wooden jetties that came down from the roof – and up in the sky were thousands of light bulbs twinkling. Both leads were stunningly good, but Miller was amazing – all twitching, lurching, spasming, drooling, yet eloquent – having been taught by a old blind man played brilliantly by veteran Karl Johnson, (who I remember seeing years ago as Jacques with Fiona Shaw in As You Like It at the Old Vic).

Sometimes theatrical productions don’t work so well when filmed straight, but the camera positions had been planned with precision so the cinema audience was able to buy in to the performance. It was only when they came out for their bows at the end that you realised you were in a cinema again.  I can’t recommend this production enough!  (10/10)

When I lived close to London, I went to the theatre about once a month – to the RSC, NT and Old Vic primarily, and I do miss those trips.  However, the NT Live is pretty much the next best thing.  I see they are going to broadcast Timon of Athens starring Simon Russell Beale in the late autumn …

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Back to Beryl tomorrow, but don’t forget to leave Beryl comments or links – here or on any of the previous Beryl posts.


7 thoughts on “Frankenstein – National Theatre Live

  1. I live in America, and I went out of my way to go see both showings of this brilliant production which were being aired in a theatre a few hours from where I live. Seeing both versions was well worth the drive however. I would definitely recommend seeing both. It’s absolutely fascinating how the same script can be played in such different ways by the two actors. Both were brilliant. Very different but brilliant nonetheless.

    • Annica – lucky you! If I could I’d go again and see the other version, but I’m otherwise engaged for the local showings, and babysitting arrangements preclude going further at the moment. I hope they’ll bring out a DVD. I’m glad that both were amazing – I notice you didn’t express a preference…

    • You can see the film all over the UK at the moment Stu – check the link to find out your local screenings.

  2. I’m hoping to get to see this in August when it plays in DC, but I can’t decide which performance I want to get to–I doubt I can manage both. Clare at the Literary Omnivore saw the opposite one from you, and she loved it, so I probably can’t lose. A DVD release would be a fabulous idea!

    • It was stunningly good. In a way the film is better than the stage show as you had the best sightlines. Seeing the film in an auditorium with an audience did make it seem much more live. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it whichever you see.

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