I went to a play at the movies yesterday - Frankenstein from England's National Theatre - and it was terrific, despite a technical glitch that delayed the start for 45 minutes!
Two actors - Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller - alternate the roles of the creature and Victor Frankenstein. Cumberbatch was the creature at the performance I saw - and he was mesmerizing. Miller was so absorbing as the conflicted scientist who brings him to life.
I don't like horror stories so Frankenstein, directed by filmmaker Danny Boyle, wouldn't have been my first choice for my first NTLive screening. But I loved Cumberbatch as world's most famous consulting detective in Sherlock. Plus, what an appropriate show to bring my blog back to life.
Frankenstein opens with a 15-minute spastic ballet as the creature, arms and legs flailing, attempts to stand up. He's awkward and his appearance is shocking, with train-track sutures running across his head and down his face. (I can see why two actors play the creature, it's physically demanding.)
Cumberbatch manages to make the creature both terrifying and sympathetic. He gradually becomes "civilized," learning to speak and read, yet you never forget that he's a monster. He simply wants to be loved despite his appearance and yet all he learns in his contact with humans is deception and hatred and fear.
If there's a villain in playwright Nick Dear's adaptation of Mary Shelley's 19th-century novel, it's Victor Frankenstein. He's arrogant and stubborn, obsessed with his work, cold toward the people who love him.
What I found fascinating is that Miller's Frankenstein knows he's made a mistake. He's horrified by the violent creature that he's brought to life. At the same time, he's kind of proud of what he's done. There's definitely some attraction/repulsion at work here.
I was afraid seeing a filmed play might be kind of stilted and talky but I thought this production was stunning - the music, the lighting, the sets all create kind of a gloomy, eerie, foreboding atmosphere. There were a couple of moments where I felt a little squeamish and one that genuinely startled me.
The National Theatre films several productions a year and shows them in venues around the world. They're a little more expensive than a regular movie - my ticket was $15. But they're worth checking out if you love theatre and a trip to London isn't in your future.