Arts Review


Frankenstein by Shake and Stir

Playhouse, QPAC

14th-28th Oct, 2023


Dr Gemma Regan


Local theatre company Shake & Stir have produced a magnificent macabre production of the monstrous tale encapsulating the gothic horror to perfection, chilling the soul with what could be lurking in the shadows.


Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein has been made even more terrifying with an ingenious use of stagecraft directed by Nick Skubij and adapted by Nelle Lee. It is the macabre tale of how a scientist fascinated by death became a necromancer, reanimating body parts to create his living monster.


Frankenstein was written by Shelley when she was only 18. It is the result of a whimsical challenge as to who could write the best horror story between her husband Percy Shelley, herself and her step-sister, Lord Byron and the author of The Vampyre, John Polidori. Frankenstein coined the archetypal mad scientist we now know and love during the Romantic period when medicine was crude and scientific definitions of life and death was rudimentary.


Lee has remained close to the book with this adaptation unlike the storyline of the numerous Frankenstein films. The terrifying tale is told by Vincent Frankenstein when he is rescued by Captain Robert Walton after finding him alone on the ice whilst in pursuit of his abominable creation. He recounts his exploits on the ship with scenes cutting to the scenes as the story unfolds. 


With only a small cast of six and a brilliant use of low lighting and multimedia film on screens, the stage setting is ingenious and astoundingly effective. Everything has been considered to heighten the audience’s experience, with Clare de la Lune playing as you are seated in front of a darkened stage filled with atmospheric smoke.


Designer Josh Macintosh and video designer Craig Wilkinson, have recreated the British and Swiss landscapes and buildings including the salubrious attic where Victor Frankenstein conducts his dastardly experiments. 


The tall Jeremiah Wray is the monster with pieced-together scarred greyish skin, more in harmony with the original than the Hollywood green-skinned neck-bolted monster of the movies. The makeup design of Steven Boyle involved creating latex masks to transform the actor into one that all would avoid! Wray is terrifyingly eloquent, as was the monster from the book, verbally threatening and pursuing all associated with Victor after shunning his creation.


Victor is played brilliantly by Darcy Brown, displaying a plethora of emotions throughout the play as his desire to create transforms into guilt, terror and paranoia.


The remaining four actors; Tony Cogin, Nick James, Jodie Le Vesconte and the adaptor Nelle Lee, share the remaining roles with equal diligence and aplomb. The numerous costumes were made by a team of four and are dark and gothic, whilst also remaining true to the Romantic period.


Particularly notable moments out of a show laden with frights and sinister scenes (which caused members of the audience to scream out loudly), were the characters running through a dark wood behind the monolithic screens and being able to see their frantic journey continue on the screen seamlessly and then they reappear in another area of the stage. The monster animation scene was also fantastic with bolts of lighting, body parts, smoke and explosions from real on-stage pyrotechnics, further adding to the drama.


The sound created by Guy Webster and lighting by Trent Suidgeest were paramount to transforming a blackened stage into a hammer house of horrors. Suidgeest’s use of shadows was inspirational, from the industrial fan in Vincent’s laboratory to the terrifying looming appearances of the monster as he stalks his prey.


I have seen many plays from Shake & Stir’s brilliant repertoire with their own twisted Frankensteinian reanimation of classic tales including Dracula, Jane Eyre and A Christmas Carol, but this one was even better and was incredible! Everyone should grab the very limited opportunity to see Frankenstein which has already added two more matinees to try and meet the demand of the very short run ending this week!


Go and see how Mary Shelley envisioned Frankenstein to be and discover what lurks in the shadows for a spine-tingling introduction to Halloween!



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