THEATRE REVIEW: Dr Frankenstein at Sheffield Crucible Theatre

Photo by Pamela Raith.
Photo by Pamela Raith.

A touring production by Northern Stage of a play based on Mary Shelley’s extraordinary novel is on at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

In a radical shift of emphasis, Victor Frankenstein becomes Victoria Frankenstein, a young woman who is not allowed to study medicine in England, but who travels to Bavaria to pursue her own researches into the marginal area that separates life from death.

The change in gender allows the writer (Selma Dimitrijevic) and the director (Lorne Campbell) to reimagine the family relationships, fleshing out the character of Victoria’s sister, Elizabeth, and highlighting the effect on them all of the early death of the sisters’ mother.

The result is a multi-layered show of almost hallucinatory vividness, in which set, lighting and sound combine with the actors to produce a highly unusual piece of theatre.

Old ways of thinking come into conflict with new ways of thinking. Semi-accidental discoveries lead to unforeseen consequences; some of the raw moral dilemmas which underlie scientific research are exposed.

The significant role played in the development of the plot by Justine Moritz is handled well, although the absence of an actor to play the younger brother, William, weakens the impact of his death.

Dr Victoria Frankenstein is sympathetically portrayed by Polly Frame. By the end, her Creature, an outsider brought to life with great psychological acuity by Ed Gaughan, takes centre stage.

The final dialogue between them has a touching humanity.

Dr Frankenstein runs until Saturday, March 25.