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!
Me: It's got Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller in it!
Me: ...you know what, nevermind. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
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. :)