Frankenstein To Frighten at DPAC
Caelin Miltko | Thursday, March 27, 2014
If you’re a fan of any of the recent Sherlock Holmes remakes, you’ve probably heard of either Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller or, quite possibly, both. This weekend, at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC), the two Holmes actors star in a set of films telling the story of “Frankenstein.”
The films are part of the National Theatre Live series from London. The broadcast originally premiered in 2011 and returns now as part of the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebration. The original showings sold out at the National Theatre and won the 2012 Olivier Award for Best Actor for both Cumberbatch and Miller.
There are two versions of this production of “Frankenstein.” The first, premiering Saturday at 3 p.m. at DPAC, stars Cumberbatch as the Creature and Miller as Victor Frankenstein. The second version has the pair swapping roles.
Danny Boyle, who is known for his work on “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” directed the films. Cumberbatch is most recently known for his roles in BBC’s “Sherlock” (as the title character) and “12 Years a Slave.” Miller stars in another modern remake of the Sherlock Holmes story, CBS’s “Elementary.”
Based on Mary Shelley’s novel of the same name, the follows the Creature after he and Victor Frankentstein part ways. The play attempts to recreate the Creature’s journey after his parental figure abandons him, in a world that is unlikely to accept him given his appearance.
According to a review in the Huffington Post, most critics recommend the version where Cumberbatch plays the Creature, though both have received good reviews.
The question at the core of the narrative is who is the real monster: the repulsive Creature brought back to life or the scientist who creates and abandons him?
The play comes down strongly on the side of the Creature, portraying Frankenstein as “standard-issue, brainy, emotionally arid megalomaniac with sneering lines that verge on camp” according to Ben Brantley in a review in The New York Times. Here it veers from Shelley a bit, who allows more empathy to be created for the man who created such a monster and therefore offers the actor playing the Creature a bit more to work with.
Each performance offers its own distinct feel to the narrative, and part of the critical interest in the film has been comparing the two actors in the roles of the Creature and Frankenstein. Michael Billington’s review in The Guardian says that Cumberbatch has “an epic grandeur” while “Miller’s strength, in contrast, lies in his menace.” The paired performances offer interesting insights into Shelley’s novel.
“Frankenstein” is lauded as one of the major successes of the National Theatre Live and the opportunity to see it on Notre Dame’s campus is incredible. If you are lucky enough to have tickets, expect a performance that will offer new insights into the popular novel, especially as the two actors switch roles.