October 26th, 2016
In Week Two of the Frankenstein Rehearsal Diaries, Lixi Chivas discusses the creative vision of the production as the rehearsals progress.
To balance out the considerable pathos and soul-searching intrinsic to the unpacking of Frankenstein, our second week has been characterised by silly voices, cake, and to quote the hashtag our director, Eleanor Rhode, tweeted, #BloodOnMySocks.
Getting stuck into the heart of the play now, Eleanor has been leading us through some weighty discussions with great insight into the text, the context of the novel and the condition of humanity. Creature is broken by being abandoned by the person who created him, who should have taken responsibility for him. He is repeatedly rejected by strangers who judge him, only on his appearance, as monstrous, rightly so ultimately but not at first. It’s heart-breaking that Creature is constantly making himself vulnerable to others in his quest for love and friendship, but when he snaps, there’s no going back for him. And we’ve decided that we’re not great fans of Frankenstein. He is young, too young to question his actions. He’s no evil genius, however, just someone who has the intelligence to understand the repercussions of his actions, but not the wherewithal. He hasn’t yet learnt to be unselfish and his world has been entirely corrupted by the succession of terrible decisions he has made.
To give both of these tortured characters life, Tom Jackson Greaves, the movement director, has been working especially closely with George Fletcher, playing both Creature and Frankenstein, to pinpoint each milestone in Creature’s formative moments and to design a clear and watchable way of performing dialogue when both characters present are played by the same actor. Tom has brilliantly sharp instincts for physicality and is always mindful of authenticity. In mapping out how Creature would incrementally gain control of his pain, muscles and cognition, we’ve been drawing inspiration from how a child develops awareness, movement, dexterity and then language.
The world the characters inhabit has been richly furnished by sound designer David Gregory and actor-musician Lucy Keirl who have been creating an auditory ‘language’ for the production, finding a balance between live and pre-recorded effects. Lucy is providing ‘spot effects’, similar to ‘Foley’ in film-making, creating ambient noises live on stage. Even Lucy’s musical instruments get drafted into the soundscape, being recommissioned to generate sounds in a whole new way. I’m fascinated watching David and Lucy build the atmosphere, experimenting with the blend of natural and electronic sound. Initially the galvanising storyteller, ‘Chorus’ is very active throughout the play. As well as taking on a defined role, Lucy acts both as an extension of George, reflecting what his character is thinking, saying or doing, and as an observer of Creature and Frankenstein’s decisions, alongside the audience.
It’s an absolute delight working with such a knowledgeable and inventive team who somehow bring writer Tristan Bernays’ stage directions to life, even those that instruct ‘Creature begins to trek across the snowy Alps’. And afterwards you think, ‘yes, of course that’s how you do that…’
Frankenstein opens on Monday 31 October and runs until Friday 4 November. To book tickets click here.