Danny Boyle's Frankenstein
National Theatre Live
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema on April 19th and 20th
Review by: Larry Thomas
One of the great things about the advent of technological advances is how it expands our entertainment horizons and options. It all started when The Metropolitan Opera began live, high-definition broadcasts from their stage to movie theatres all over the world. Now we can avail ourselves of concerts, both popular and classical, and international theatre productions as well.
One such theatre series is from London’s Royal National Theatre, presented in Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center under the aegis of Cincinnati World Cinema and its co-presenter, the Carnegie. These productions are captured on high definition video using multiple cameras that gives cinematic flavor to a theatrical production. If you wanted to attend a showing other than our locale, it would require a 250-mile road trip.
This week is Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s staging of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Using a script by playwright Nick Dear, and adhering more closely to the original source novel than previous film versions, this stunning adaptation is a wonder to behold. The sets and staging in the National’s Olivier Theatre, and the performances of both the doctor and the creature, are of knock-your-socks-off quality. And you even have an option in your choice of performances. The two principals, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, play the creature and the doctor, alternating their roles each night. It’s a major challenge that both actors are capable of executing. On Tuesday, Miller plays the doctor and Cumberbatch the creature, while for Wednesday’s performance the roles are reversed.
The opening sequence in which the creature is spit from a scientific womb and engages is what amounts to a spastic ballet of birth is an amazing feat of physical prowess. I saw Cumberbatch in this sequence, and was awestruck by what he has invested in this character. Since the creature is made from a plethora of body parts, none of which has ever worked together as one functioning unit, this birth sequence makes perfect sense. About half way through, we switched to the other version with Miller as the creature. His interpretation, while similar, is naturally different. In fact, you may even want to consider attending both screenings in order to experience the nuances of both actors in the two roles.
Although Boyle is best know for his film work, he began as a stage director. His handling of the material is quite dramatic, while also being cinematically visual. Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for playing Dr. Watson in a BBC version of Sherlock Holmes. I’m thinking it won’t be long before his name is well known in cinematic circles. Jonny Lee Miller worked with Boyle before in the film Trainspotting, and comes from a family full of actors. His grandfather, Bernard Lee, was the original “M” in the James Bond series.
To experience this interpretation of Frankenstein without flying to London to do so is a rare treat, and one that should not be missed. Showings are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm, with a cash bar and social hour preceding, in Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center.
You can go to our website for a link to Cincinnati World Cinema, and more information about World Cinema, the Carnegie, and the production.