National Theatre Live broadcast on Sunday, April 3.
Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein and the modern myth it spawned are often interpreted as a simple jeremiad against the overreach of science and technology. The unsympathetic protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, is seen as a prototypical mad scientist, undertaking something unforgivably “unnatural,” attempting to usurp the role of God. To be perfectly frank, that reading of the story bores me. If Victor’s project is completely and inherently indefensible, both from a narrative and a thematic perspective, what else is there to say about it? What’s the point?
The thing is, there is more to say about Frankenstein, and Victor’s sins are far more extensive than heresy (which, as far I’m concerned, is a between-you-and-your-conscience thing anyway). The Royal National Theatre’s new stage adaption of the work understands that—and, not coincidentally, it hews relatively close to its source material. The result is a disturbing, emotionally fraught portrait of a man and his neglected progeny, a parable of grossly irresponsible stewardship and devastating generational conflict. Provocative and creepy, this Frankenstein transcends knee-jerk alarmism and theological pap. It’s a horror story worth being horrified by.