SHOW TITLE: FRANKENSTEIN
PRODUCER: Raw Red Meat Productions
HAILING FROM: Minneapolis
SHOW DESCRIPTION: Ride this rollercoaster mindf**k as it peels back the skin of the story you think you know, to reveal the true nightmares underneath. Blood, terror, and darkness await. Do not bring children. Do not come alone.
I didn’t realize until I sat down with the programme that I’d reviewed a show by this company before – Hear No Evil at the Twin Cities Horror Festival in 2013. It was, in my view, the show that effortlessly stood out amongst some very stiff competition.
I’m someone who is very interested in the problem of creating horror onstage. There’s something just too unreal about the medium – it’s difficult to generate a sense of genuine terror. And while I wouldn’t say that I was ever actively frightened, I definitely spent the better part of the hour being unsettled.
(I should also mention that I’m a tremendous fan of the novel that the show is at least nominally based on, and I was curious to see how they would marry their often surreal inventiveness to a text. I found the result fascinating, though as the show gradually reveals its connection to the text isn’t quite what it appears to be. Nevertheless, while the short, clipped dialogue served the image-driven production well, I often found myself missing Shelley’s flowery Victorian verbosity.)
So how did they generate that sense of consistent unease? Simply put, by being the show that makes the most extensive use of diegetic lighting I’ve ever seen. The vast bulk of the action is lit by a series of hand-held flashlights. Their movement seems casual, but it is expertly choreographed. We hear grunting and shuffling in the darkness, and we actively peer into it to see the dark shapes twitching. One of the actors turns towards us and we’re momentarily blinded – in the moment it takes our eyes to adjust, the scene has shifted. Someone turns away in mid-conversation, then turns back to find that they’re speaking to someone else. The effect is that we’re often not certain if we’re seeing actual scenes taking place between characters, or Victor’s confused, stream-of-consciousness recollection of them. It is masterful.
I’ll confess that, despite some performances of great intensity, I was rarely emotionally engaged by the production – rather, I found myself watching with a kind of detached fascination. I wanted to come back, and take careful notes on what they were doing and how they were doing it.
So, I’m afraid that all this show really has to recommend it is technical invention and intellectual bravado. That is absolutely more than enough for me. I give it high praise – it made me want to go home and write. If you’ve got the slightest interest in the subject or the genre, you won’t be disappointed.
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