Return of the monster

Frankenstein: Mary Shelley, Seckford Theatre, WoodbridgeLove & Madness Theatre Company does Mary Shelley a service by reminding those of us brought up on generations of indifferent Frankenstein movies what her classic 1817 novel is really about.

Frankenstein: Mary Shelley, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge

Love & Madness Theatre Company does Mary Shelley a service by reminding those of us brought up on generations of indifferent Frankenstein movies what her classic 1817 novel is really about.

Catriona Craig's stage adaptation - and Neil Sheppeck's production - certainly caters for the scary moments Mary Shelley intended when taking up Byron's challenge to write the most frightening ghost story every written. But her novel was much more than that. She warns of the dangers of wrong headedness, obsession and the ill thought out.

The Frankenstein story has a framework. We begin in the freezing Arctic seas as Captain Walton takes his ship towards the North Pole thinking that since the sun shines all day there it'll get warmer. He's wrong and his thinking puts those whose lives depend upon him in peril.

Amid the frozen wastes he comes across and rescues another man who's let everyone down. Scientist Victor Frankenstein (Nathan Brine), almost dead with cold and exhaustion is hunting the demon - the unnamed creature - he's created. Now it's with the intention of destroying him. His tells the captain his story, which like that of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, is haunted by fear and guilt, and horror at what he has done.

From a collection of body parts he has made a monster that disgusts him. The hideous creature hates him in return and kills everyone Frankenstein loves. Craig Tonks's monster is huge, sonorous, strong, and fearsome but still manages to make us feel sorry for him. Frankenstein has created him, but can't, because of his revulsion, provide the nurture the creature requires. Put together with The Tempest, Love & Madness's other production of the week, the parenthood theme becomes clear.

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The thinking, by the way, isn't anti-science; it just suggests that the consequences of scientific advance should be properly considered, and moral values not forgotten.

This production tells the story well, gives us impressive set-piece scenes - in the laboratory, the bridal room into which the vengeful Creature breaks in, and on the ship.

There are some incomprehensible touches. The interspersed narrated sections - are delivered with no light on the actor speaking them. Instead, strangely, the house lights were put up. Also, every now again the balance between the words and background music is wrong. Further, I can't understand getting an actor to brandish a guitar he clearly can't play.

However, an enjoyable and spooky night out in Woodbridge.

Ivan Howlett

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