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Frankenstein Rehearsal Diaries – Week One

In the first instalment of our Frankenstein rehearsal diary, Assistant Director Lixi Chivas provides an insight into the rehearsal process of the upcoming Watermill production.

This week, we welcomed the Frankenstein company to The Watermill and what an incredibly busy week we’ve had!  Working with director Eleanor Rhode, writer Tristan Bernays, movement director Tom Jackson Greaves and sound designer David Gregory, the cast of two have already nursed our new-born Creature from life’s first cry to scaling the Alps.

Working on an Outreach schools tour adaptation of a famous text inevitably starts with deciding where to focus our attention.  While the story of Frankenstein is well-known, not everyone has read the book, which uses a literary device very popular at the time of stories within stories.  An arctic explorer, Captain Walton, tells the story of Frankenstein, who tells Creature’s story, who tells the story of a farmer called De Lacey! In our production we’ve chosen to begin with the unnamed Creature rather than his creator, Frankenstein (the name that is commonly, mistakenly, given to Creature).  And rather than a terrifying monster, innately evil, we discover he is abandoned and abused, seeking love and comfort but repeatedly, cruelly denied any kindness.  It is only this that pushes him into thrashing out against the world that fears and hates him.

There are so many nuances and details within the novel, including expansive back-stories for minor characters, and intricate studies of the thinking of both Frankenstein and Creature.  Refining the story into a punchy production that will be absorbing for audiences both in schools and at The Watermill requires clarity in the storytelling and amazingly for this stage in the rehearsal process we’ve already sculpted several key sequences.

Our director, Eleanor, is particularly interested in the ideas of galvanism that inspired Mary Shelley.  At the time, experiments appeared to re-animate the dead limbs of frogs by applying an electric current to the muscles.  In the book, Frankenstein has found a way to take this phenomenon to its furthest, unnatural, conclusion of resurrecting an entire, human form.  For us in our adaptation, music rather than electricity becomes the galvanising force. Our talented actor-musician Lucy Keirl and sound designer David are finding lots of exciting ways to lead the audience through the narrative, variously provoking and responding to our actor, George Fletcher.

We’ve been travelling through the story so fast it’s hard to believe we only started on Monday!

Lixi Chivas, Assistant Director

Frankenstein opens on Monday 31 October and runs until Friday 4 November. To find out more and book tickets please click here. Frankenstein on tour is generously supported by The Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.