Review: Frankenstein. Duchess Theatre. Long Eaton. Encore Performing Arts.

You know the expression ‘ that’ll be a very hard act to follow’? Well, having seen the National Theatre’s thrilling production of Frankenstein by Nick Dear starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature and Johnny Lee Miller as Dr Frankenstein, any thoughts of an amateur production coming anyway near those celestially high standards of acting and stage production make one wonder why they would risk trying to put on Nick Dear’s play. It would be amazingly challenging. But then I guess Encore Performing Arts are the guys to bravely take up that challenge, but do they succeed? Will it be a monstrous failure or a monster of a success?

Some of the strongest elements of this Encore Performing Arts are the choices of music from director Adam Guest. A good way of describing them would be ‘Hauntingly Electric’ and ‘Promethean’. Not only do they score the show but are continued throughout the interval so that one never loses track of the energy of the piece. Each track are brilliant choices that really make this cleverly wrought production stand out.

As one of the main principles Kheenan Jones is utterly outstanding as ‘The Creature’ or the monster as some call Dr Frankenstein’s inhuman yet actually very human creation. Every moment that Jones is on the stage is a glorious one and he is totally focussed on populating and advancing the storyline. Make up artist Amy Biddulph has done an exemplary job on designing and applying both the creatures’ scarred body and face make up.

Jack Readyhoof has a less commanding role as Dr Victor Frankenstein in the first half but really comes into his own dramatically after the interval where Dr Victor Frankenstein attempts to create a female mate (Megan Hill) for the creature all the while sacrificing his own distant love for his bride-to-be Elizabeth Lavenza (Danielle Hall in acting fine form) to furthering the dangerous world of science through the illegal acquisition of dead bodies.

All of the acting in Frankenstein is played straight. This is an excellent choice as the piece could easily slip into parody and lose all integrity. As it stands, the standard of acting is good from the whole company and so this evening’s audience remain gripped throughout. The active crowd scenes are well done and contain a commendable amount of energy as they dash around the stage or more soberly, go night hunting for a lost boy. Concerning the quality of amateur theatre this production ranks amongst the best shown this year. Stand out alternative roles include Terry Stevenson as The Blind Man and Gary Lever as Monsieur Frankenstein. The costumes created and sourced by Amanda Warriner are excellently chosen to create a real period look.

The settings are well lit offering split visuals and spooky atmospheres and the set dressings are simple but very effective and smartly handled by the cast and crew during set changes. David Price offers us an intriguing and theatrically well-chosen lighting design and director Adam Guest has chosen his sound effects well and they all add to what turns out to be a thrilling amateur production of Nick Dear’s adaptation of Frankenstein that sees everything from the perspective of the creature.

Frankenstein runs at The Duchess Theatre Long Eaton until Saturday 24th September.


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