Friday Headlines

the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress

Shelley's Frankenstein brings gothic horror to life

29 March 2018

On Thursday 15 March, English Literature Sixth Form students visited Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre in celebration of 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s famous gothic horror novel. 

Some of us arrived earlier than others to enjoy some breakfast before the busy day ahead, but by 9:30am we were all together and ready to catch our train to Manchester. Once we all had our tickets and made our way to the platform, we only had a short wait before the arrival of the train. We got on board and found our reserved seats, but annoyingly some other passengers had decided to sit in them. They finally moved after Mrs Park managed to persuade them that they were our seats! After that short commotion, we all settled and enjoyed our journey to Manchester, which passed fairly quickly as we had each other for company.

On arriving in Manchester, we were all getting hungry, so we decided to grab a bite to eat in Pret a Manger, before continuing to wander around the city. Due to excellent organisation, we found we had time to look around some of the shops before heading to the theatre for 2:30pm, ready for the production to start.

The production of Frankenstein performed at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre is based on the novel written by Mary Shelley in 1818, 200 years ago. Rescued by a ship near the North Pole, Victor Frankenstein tells the story of how he ended up there. He recounts a tale of a young scientist, a man with a soaring ambition, a tale of monstrous creation, and most importantly, how he recognises his mistake.

Shane Zaza delivered a strong performance as Frankenstein; his ambition and arrogance leading to the scientist’s eventual downfall as he sinks into madness and belated guilt. The character of Captain Walton, whilst having a limited role in the novel, was included by being a permanent character throughout the production, watching the events of Frankenstein’s tragic life unfold.

The part everyone was waiting for, of course, was when the monstrous creature was brought to life. This was made suitably dramatic and chilling by using a zigzag of neon light, blinding the theatre in white light before plunging it into darkness as the creature was finally revealed. Swathed in layers of dusty black fabrics, Harry Attwell’s Creature was both terrifying and gruesome, scarred and stitched together with evil looking eyes and lank straggles of hair. Lumbering and ungainly, the creature is pathetic and needy, yet achieves a thrilling, frenzied melodrama in the strangling scenes.

Throughout the production, there was an underlying sense of unease and it succeeded in bringing Shelley’s psychologically unnerving horror to life on stage.

Overall, the production was very faithful to the original novel, whilst interjecting some very humorous one liners, and the atmosphere remained dramatic throughout. The production contained some wonderful special effects and really frightening moments. It was a visually stunning performance enjoyed by all who attended. Many thanks to Ms Harrison and Mrs Park for organising such a rewarding and useful trip.  

 

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