Celebrating 200 Years of Frankenstein with Theatre Inconnu

26 Sep

41410648_2348320888527877_1610334705587060736_oTheatre Inconnu
1923 Fernwood Rd
Victoria, BC

Sept 25 – Oct 13

Ticket Prices:
$14 Regular,
$10 Seniors and Students

Many variations of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein have graced the media over the years. The original tale was published in 1818, and some years after, the first adaptation appeared on stage five years after. Love for this work was immediate, and to know the author saw Richard Brinsley Peake‘s adaptation, Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein (1823) and gave her seal of approval says something.

When this year marks the 200th anniversary, many celebrations are taking place all over the world as Halloween approaches. I am sure she would appreciate the show happening in the garden city of Victoria, British Columbia. Writer/auteur David Elendune‘s version plays up the Gothic and director Ian Case makes the story about Victor Frankenstein far more intense. Together, they have more than twenty years of experience in how to craft tales of terror for a live audience. Both are well-respected names in this town and produced shows for the Victoria Fringe Festival or at Craigdarroch Castle.

The first act is carried by Brian Quakenbush’s presence and his perchance for melodrama. He’s like Michael Bell when he played Groppler Zorn in the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The fear he had for seeing the monster awake and when he ran, I knew the later acts have to consider how he can save himself.

Did he birth evil? What are the stakes? The first act sees him emerging out of a coffin (which takes on different objects as the play continues) and talking to himself about the life immortal, the Fates, and himself as God. Connections to the Greek figure Prometheus are kept, and everything I remember studying back at university about this tale came flooding back.

nullElendune sets this character up to be tragic. He gives Victor a Shakespearean vibe. The first act is all about setting up his motivations and the next is the story. I was even waiting to hear him ask, “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

The later acts see the rest of the cast take on more of a presence. All that Victorian-age pride and prejudice typical for the time are noticeable. With one role gender-switched, I was curious about where this change would go. Clerval (Tenyiah McKenna) finds her cousin, Victor, wandering aimlessly on the streets of London and helps him recoup. Women’s roles in this society are also given a soft but important mention.

The set pieces include a gramophone (recalling how part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was told), a coffin in the wall (hinting at the same work), a wind up electrical device and a string of lights (to symbolize an umbilical cord). They are all used to great effect in the key scenes fans of the cinematic version expect. Sorry, no Tesla coil is used here. It would have been cool to include this piece, but I am sure regulations exist to ensure safety.

When this play differs slightly from the book, to guess at how it will conclude can be tough. I shall not say how it all ends, but I loved the intensity of the third act. I know the novel reasonably well and welcomed the changes. Seeking out live stage performances of this Shelley’s work is certainly worthwhile, especially when both the soundscape and the lighting perfectly sets the tone. An etheric thrall was felt when ghostly moments were created. Though for ambiance, when the rain images were projected to the floor than walls, all the world is not the stage; only the middle of the auditorium was. Afterward, with the moon still looking full, the temptation was there—I wanted to go over to Frankenstein’s place and have a marathon of other works to dance the night away.

4½ Stars out of 5

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