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Frankenstein at the National Theatre

I just got back from seeing Frankenstein at the National Theatre in London, England....and I didn't even have to leave Vancouver. We live in awesome times, people.

National Theatre Live is this thing they do where they film a live performance of the play and then send it around the world to different theatre on one evening. Naturally, given the time-difference, my version was the live-to-tape version, since I doubt their doing shows in the wee hours of the morning.

Plays always make me nervous. I think because there is more risk involved - will the actors mess up, will something go wrong...plus, the emotion is more immediate, more visceral in a play than it is on the screen somehow. So, yes, I get very nervous before I go to plays - and I don't usually seek them out for this reason. But, this was FRANKENSTEIN - seriously one of the greatest stories ever written...and it was staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller...how could I pass that up?
 
 
And I'm really glad I didn't.
 
The cool thing about seeing the play live, but filmed, is that we had the best seats in the house. We were right in front of the stage, above the stage, and through the marvelous invention of zoom-lenses, it was as though we were on the stage sometimes as well.  You may lose the ability to choose what your focus is on - but, you lose that when you are actually inside the theatre as well - hence all my memories of Paul Gross as Hamlet are looking at the action from a little bit to the side and a fair distance away. There's a price to pay for any method of viewing, really.
 
Now, for an actual review of the play - I liked it. Well, that was a short review....haha.
 
It's amazing to see that caliber of acting. It's not that people on TV or in movies aren't as good, I'm sure they are - hell, I've seen Benedict in Sherlock, and he was phenomenal there too....but in a play you can REALLY see it. The pure commitment to the characters - there was never an insincere moment from either of the two leads. They were ALWAYS  in character and always completely devoted to the play when they were on stage. You could see them dripping with sweat from the lights at some points, but you'd never know it by their acting. And bless the poor girl who had to kiss Johnny when he was literally dripping with perspiration - that's commitment.
 
My only critique was that Frankenstein's father seems a little stiff - and, um, this will make me sound racist, since I'm white and I'm not allowed to criticize stuff like this - but, although I think it's a really cool idea to not cast based on skin colour, it kind of pulled me out of the play a bit to have Victor Frankenstein's father be a black guy. My brain kept trying to rationalize it. "He's actually his fiance's father...oh, no, that line just ruined that solution...ok, step-dad...ok, he's talking about what Victor was like as a baby....step-dad who happened to be there from the beginning...and um, the younger brother REALLY took after their mother? Damn it, just watch the play." So, yeah, like the colour-blindness on a conceptually, but not in practice, I'm afraid. But whatever, it was a REALLY small critique and it probably wouldn't have pulled me out so much if the actor didn't seem a little stiff...though, I suppose he's playing a 1800s Magistrate, maybe he's supposed to be stiff.
 
But let's go back to talking about good things...the set was amazing! It all fit together and sprung up from the floor and completely transformed...the old man next to me (and the theatre was basically ALL old people...but I suppose that's what I get for going to the "Theatre") kept saying "wow" whenever the set turned to display an entirely new setting. The soundtrack...or, um...I guess score? Is it a score for a play? Anyway, it really fit in well, unnoticed except when it was supposed to be noticed, and very industrial and perfect for the setting.
 
The play itself, I thought, was very well written and well done. I like the fact that they kept the creature intelligent and articulate, but still (and maybe this is Benedict's acting) a little naive, and eventually jaded and always someone that didn't seem quite right.
 
So, yeah, a winner in my books and definitely worth seeing. If anyone is interested, they are doing an encore performance on March 31st that you might still be able to get tickets to, if they are showing it in your area. On March 31st (or maybe March 24th, check with the venue), Benedict will be Frankenstein, and Johnny will be the nameless creature.
 
 
A great night! I'm definitely going to keep my eyes on what other plays National Theatre Live does in the future.
 
On a side-note, there was a lot of this today:
Person dressed in green and full of revelry: What are your plans for St. Paddy's Day!?! WOO!
Me: I'm going to see a play.
Person: *stares blankly* 
Me: It's at the National Theatre in London, but projected onto a movie screen here!
Person: Um...
Me: It's got Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller in it!
Person: .....
Me: ...you know what, nevermind. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Person: WOO!
 
So, I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick's Day - those who are Irish, those who aren't, and those who sprang into this world fully formed, nameless, and of unknown creation - May the road rise up to meet you. :)

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
focaccina
Mar. 18th, 2011 08:10 am (UTC)
Aww, heck, why isn't this showing in Asia? :(

An encore on my birthday??? O CRUEL WORLD, WRY U DO DIS TO ME???? ;_;
hells_half_acre
Mar. 18th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Awww, well, (early) happy birthday anyway! Maybe the National Theatre will release a DVD eventually - and you can angrily track it through customs ;)

focaccina
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
Thanks :)
Ahaha, maybe I'll do just that.
lusciniate
Mar. 18th, 2011 10:47 am (UTC)
You may lose the ability to choose what your focus is on [..]
Yeah, that's the problem with filmed plays. But if it is done professionally and preferably with more than 2 or 3 cameras it can be made really good in the editing room if they sit down with a director and some other smart enough people who are able to make the right decisions what should be on screen in the close up. Not mentioning the plays taped by theater themselves for their own "rehearsing" reasons and for their "shelves" which are more often than not just one camera on a stand. I have seen many supposedly professional tapes of theater plays. And I have to say that it’s close to 50-50. Especially if you have seen them live - you can easily tell where the director, who is responsible for the video, went wrong with the choice about what to show on screen. But I am happy that in your case it seems that you had one of the “good” ones :)

You definitely should go more to theater - if you think that kissing your very sweaty colleague is a commitment :) With theater being so much more real than movies there are many more instances where the commitment to the play and the comfortability (okay not always comfortability, but a kind of a trust in fellow actors) shines through the performances. (Again on of those reasons why I prefer theater to the movies, because it is more real and more accident prone than anything else.)

All those saliva related things - wet diction, which sometimes happens to many actors when they "get in each other faces" and shout at each other. Spitting deliberatedly (and not some kind of sterile squeeze that's squirted from off camera) in the face – and yes, not always it is just a fake spit, but sometimes very, very real. Eating something and then spitting it out in another's hands. Somehow – all these things at least for me seems more uncomfortable than just a sweaty kiss. No?

Old people.. Thankfully in the bigger theater halls (where there are more than 100 of people) usually I don’t feel like the only young one among the see of the old people. But in the smaller stages in some theaters I can relate to that feeling very well.

Once me and my friend really were (I think) the only persons below the age of 40, there were some women around that age, and then the rest of the 100 persons – all were with white heads. I have to say that in the end, when we went with the flowers up on the stage to the actors, they seemed really surprised to see among the elderly ladies so young faces. (Maybe because the play itself was a bit like a reverence (?) to the actors who once were the leading stars.).

But really – is it that sad there? That theater for you seems so much connected to the “old people”? That you think that is impossible to go and see one full of younger audience?

And lastly – yes, it’s score. Or at least it has usually been called that way, when I have had to use it in English and smarter people than me have confirmed that for me in those occasions.

-
I really need some word count limit. Seems that twitter hasn't yet killed my ability to think in less than 140 characters at a time.
hells_half_acre
Mar. 18th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, this play was definitely filmed professionally - and very well. I was concerned when I bought the tickets that it would not be edited together well - or be very static non-moving cameras - but an extremely dynamically filmed thing, so yay!

The theatre still makes me far too nervous to attend regularly. I've always tried to explain this to people, but I can't seem to. I already am heavily guarded about what movies I'll subject myself to in the theatre (or even sometimes at home), with the theatre that wariness increases ten-fold. I really only want to see plays of stories that I already know quite well - like Frankenstein, Shakespeare, Wilde, etc...because then I know what to expect.

I'm not saying this is a GOOD way to live, but it's the way I do it...I think theatre is so much more compelling than the movies, and pulls me in emotionally so much more. I'm the type of person who can't be in the same room as two people who are fighting - and that's true if they're pretending to fight too.

It IS a shame that more young people don't go to the theatre though...I think perhaps they must go to the live theatre, at least in Vancouver, because the entertainment business is so big here and working with theatres is a great way to eventually work for the movies - so, you'd think if film/acting/set-dressing/costume students are working with a production, they're friends and whatnot would come to the performances. So, it might have just been this particular National Theatre event that only the older crowd knew about/was interested in. I've never been to a live play in Vancouver yet, so I can't speak for their regular audiences.

Oh, and yes, there were definitely saliva related things at the performance - especially since the creature did not have that much control of his speech and whatnot at the beginning. I didn't mention it, because to me, saliva related things aren't as uncomfortable as your head raining sweat...but yes, it's true, being spat on is worse than being sweated on. But spitting on someone is not as uncomfortable as dripping with sweat for 10 solid minutes without the ability to wipe your face off. So, I guess it depends who we are emphasising with.

Never worry about the length of comments ;)

lusciniate
Mar. 18th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This topic almost destroyed Othello for me tonight. In the first act I was sitting and watching the actors sweating and thinking about this post. And then Desdemona went to kiss him.. and the poor guy was all covered in the black make-up and sweating.. Okay, no worries. It actually didn't do anything bad for my experience since I had already seen it and this was just something that came to my mind while watching the actors do their job (and how after starting to shout at each other - both leading guys arrived to the inability to hold their saliva where it should be :) )

Okay, I think I got what you meant by all that. For me as you can guess - it's the other way around. I love that danger that comes with going to theater. And yeah sometimes in theater the fighting (especially on smaller stages) seems even closer to you and makes one feel much more uncomfortable and sometimes even more dangerous if they go from verbal fighting to physical. So that part I can understand very well.
And it is completely logical that some people chose to not see things that makes them feel not good, since in the real life we get enough of the bad.

Ah, then I suppose I will hope that it was just a situation like with my "older people" play. Because otherwise all this gets too sad if the younger ones really don't care about theater anymore.

As for your last part - exactly. It depends on whose side you are. Now that I am thinking I am not so sure which is harder. To get your act together and spit in the face of your older colleague/friend even if the current role says that you have to. Or just to brace yourself and get "hit" with the spit.

I think that part where you can't wipe your sweat is more more annoying that uncomfortable. (And most of the times it seems really nice when some fellow actor takes pity and do that for him - wipe the brow or whatever. Even if it is said that he/she has to do that, it still looks somehow very intimate and trustful.

And maybe all those sweat related thing to me seem more comfortable than to you - because since I have danced before - sweaty guys just doesn't seem so scary anymore :) especially on stage where sometimes you have to stand with them cheeks pressed together after 6 dances without breaks and everyone is so wet that you really can get water out of the shirts in the end.
hells_half_acre
Mar. 18th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
Also, I guess a factor is that I like to go to plays that I know I'll be able to understand - I've seen some of the more "modern" or "avant-garde" stuff and yeah, it REALLY doesn't do it for me. Not only am I uncomfortable, I'm also confused and feeling stupid. So, yeah, that kind of puts me off just blindly going to plays that I've never heard of being. It probably doesn't help that most of my theatre experience has also been in foreign languages :P haha...no wonder I don't have a strong pull to go to the theatre...avant-garde plays in foreign languages? No fun.

I suppose maybe it's weird that I was more distracted by the sweat then I was by the spitting...I mean, I'm Finnish and grew up bathing in a sauna, and I certainly don't mind when things get sweaty in the bedroom...but yeah, I suppose it was sympathy for the actor who had the annoying sweat dripping off their face, possibly stinging their eyes...I suppose they probably don't think of it, too focused on the play and acting and everything - I'm sure it's similar to dancing.

I agree that it's also really cool to see how trusting and close the actors must be with each other in order to do this sort of play - because they have to depend on each other so much...and help each other out when things go wrong.

I think seeing the play on film was really the best option for me - because I still got to see the emotion, and it was more visceral than in a movie, yet, I was also still removed enough that I did not become nervous or uncomfortable...and could just remain enthralled. But yes, different things work for different personality types, and there's not much anyone can do about that. I am very thankful that I got over my usual discomfort at the idea of plays and went to this event.

I have acted in a play before, ironically. It was fun. Not a professional production at all, of course, but fun nonetheless. My best friend also acted in plays in university, which I went to in order to support him - foreign language modern stuff, but he did a good job.

I'm glad I did not ruin Othello for you! Haha, that would have been horrible of me.
lusciniate
Mar. 18th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
Avant-garde plays even in your own language more often than not are impossible to understand. But I have to say that sometimes that foreign language part destroy even your chance to understand a perfectly normal, traditional play. Even more if it is text and not action based. And with a few exceptions - I also much more like the traditional and plot based plays and not some nightmares from the mind of the new directors who are now trying to get in the theater world and have decided that the "modern" way is the only way to get noticed.

Sauna - I hate it. I have nothing against sweating as it is, but I hate sitting in sauna or any other type of it, where it is hot and your only job is to sit still and perspirate.

Actors - the only men who nowadays don't get scared from man&man contact on regular basis.

As I understood this Frankensteing had a cast who mostly hadn't worked together - so their companionship was rather new and therefore even more special is that fact that they could reach levels like that of comfortability. And that's good for them!

When you are inside of something it always feels different what when you are watching it. And I think you must have had school plays as well. I doubt many people have had the chance to escape from this part of education :)

Of course he did! He is your friend after all :) But seriously that's a good thing you went. In student plays more often than not the fullness of the hall depends on the friends of the students (and it is always nicer to play to 50 than to 5 people. So every friend who is ready to watch something for his/her friend is a very good friend :)

If you had managed to do that - I would have had to congratulate you, because I think I have reached that point where it is rather hard to destroy a play for me. I will always find something positive in the thing I am watching. Even if everything else would be ruined, there always will be that one moment, one scene, one actor or line of a text - which will be worth coming to the play :)
hells_half_acre
Mar. 18th, 2011 11:40 pm (UTC)
So every friend who is ready to watch something for his/her friend is a very good friend :)

I was even more of a good friend, because at the time we had actually sort of had a falling out and were barely speaking!

I doubt many people have had the chance to escape from this part of education :)

Indeed! I've been in many a school play...I even played the Inn Keeper in my kindergarten nativity play despite a rather large speech impediment - I still know my lines, because my mother has recounted the story so many times during my life :P

Other than that, when I was around 14, I played Demetrius in a Midsummer Night's Dream. (there were only two boys in the production, and one of them REALLY wanted to play a fairy. I got my hair cut short and was still quit boyish at the time, and apparently fooled at least one audience member - helps that my name is unisex too, so their program didn't help them.) But yes, being in a play was great fun - oddly far less nerve-wracking for me than watching one. I'm sure for most people it's the other way around. :P

Actors - the only men who nowadays don't get scared from man&man contact on regular basis.

And for this I love them.

Sauna - I hate it.

Oh man! Haha, cultural differences. I love them, but then, I have been using them since the womb.

But yes, traditional plot-based plays - I'd be more willing to see one of those on someone's recommendation than I would anything else. But still, in terms of comfort levels, I like to go with the standard plays I already know that I love...especially comedies.
kaybee751
Mar. 19th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
Jumping in with one quick, not-at-all intellectual comment:

The other group of men who aren't afraid of man & man contact on a regular basis = athletes. Especially soccer players. Just sayin' ... :)
lusciniate
Mar. 19th, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
Okay, yeah, I can agree with that as well.And I would say that those are just or especially soccer players - think of all those fighting sports :) On the other hand - there it is in the "job" description. So it might not be the same thing.. But soccer and other team sports - yes.
hells_half_acre
Mar. 19th, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
Very true. I like it when they win... ;)
lusciniate
Mar. 19th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
In the first 4 grades we had a really cool teacher who always found some great plays for us.That was really fun time. Thankfully my only kindergarden experience from that one year when I went there - has disappeared from my memory and no one is mentioning that. All I remember is that I it was some Christmas story and I was one of the angels who were for some unknown reason wisiting the baby Jesus and his parents and talking in verses from poems.

That's always funny how in the school/university plays the girls are more than guys, but in the actual theater world - it is the other way around. I think I have more often than not played a guy character than a girl. But it always has been a very interesting experience :)

Oh, the name fun. That's one thing that is almost impossible in latvian, but I know how sometimes when watching movies or tv I want to check who is it guy or a girl, but it is impossible to tell from the name. But YAY! for you, for being so great in the role that you could fool the audience! Because that's the best thing that could have happened :)

And for this I love them. Who doesn't? :) And that is such a nice thing.

About the sauna - not sure I would really call it a cultural difference, because here most of the people like them (russian or finnish or some other type). It's more like a personal problem with sitting still. Maybe that is why I also dislike just lying on the beach and tanning for the sake of getting darker. Physical activity in the sun? I am all for it. But not laying still.

But I suppose if I had grown up with using it regularly maybe I would have started to like it.

:) At least you know what you like and what you dont! Some people dont go to theater and dont know what they like or not. So they will never even try to learn their preferences...

And there is nothing wrong with comedies! Especially well made and well written ones.
hells_half_acre
Mar. 19th, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
I keep forgetting you are Latvian. :P I meant more culture as in your family vs. mine, not necessarily Finland vs. Latvia...like you said, it's all about how you are raised. And I was raised to sit still (and be quiet) ;)

That being said, I'm not a fan of sun-tanning either - unless I'm using it as an excuse to nap or read.

In school, I usually liked the plays where I got to be a smug bastard - I fear now, in retrospect, it was because I was a smug bastard. Haha!

Edited at 2011-03-19 12:46 am (UTC)
lusciniate
Mar. 19th, 2011 02:02 pm (UTC)
I meant more culture as in your family vs. mine, not necessarily Finland vs. Latvia
That's good because if we would look a few centuries back - then the old latvians had it down to a ritualistical form. With a sauna/bath-house visit every Saturday after the long working week :) And then living in them, giving birth and doing everything else that they could think of doing in a place like that.

Sleeping - not that much, at some times it even might be dangerous to fall asleep in the middle of the day in direct sunlight. But reading is good. That way you can do 2 good things at once!

I think I never have had a role of a complete bastard. Either it has been a positive or even a hero type character, or a character on the mischievous side.

So you were a child who had been risen to sit still and be quiet - and you still managed to be a smug bastard?! That is an accomplishment!
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