Tuesday, April 10, 2018

DR FRANKENSTEIN


Written by Selma Dimitrijevic
Directed by Jordan Best
Canberra REP at Theatre 3 to 21 April

Reviewed by Len Power 7 April 2018

There can’t be many people who haven’t experienced the Frankenstein story in some form or other.  Especially in cinema, there are countless variations of the original story published in 1818 by Mary Shelley.

Selma Dimitrijevic’s play retains the spirit of the original novel in its themes of cruelty and lack of compassion in the world, but in her play, Dr. Frankenstein is a woman, not a man.  While driven by an obsession with her work to bring back life after death, Victoria Frankenstein is challenged and frustrated by the male-dominated society of the time.

Jordan Best’s production moves at a deliberate pace, creating a nice sense of this woman’s 19th century world.  At the centre of it all is Jenna Roberts giving a strong performance as Victoria Frankenstein.  The obsessiveness and frustration in this woman of the period is portrayed very well and her change from an apparently unfeeling scientist to a human being who does care about others is moving and believable.

Michael Sparks and Jenna Roberts Photo: Helen Drum
Michael Sparks gives a strong and unique performance as the Creature with a physicality that is dangerously threatening but also shows the sensitivity and needy side of the human being as well.  Sian Phillips’ makeup design for the Creature is excellent.  Other members of the cast give strong support, especially Antonia Kitzel who shows a fine understanding of the period in her performance as the servant, Mary.

The abstract elements of the set design by Chris Zuber quietly suggest the 19th century world but the movement of the furniture dictated by the use of the revolving stage looked awkward at times.  The period costumes for the cast by Anna Senior were perfect.

Lighting by Chris Ellyard was complex and nicely atmospheric and there were well-designed subtle sound effects by Jenna Golab.  Original music by Matthew Webster added another dimension to the show that was quite haunting.

This is a play that needs to take its time to tell the story but the ending is satisfying, moving and well worth waiting for.

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 7 April.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm.

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