A New/Old Style Frankenstein

I went to see an HD screening of the National Theater’s play — Frankenstein. It was amazing! There is nothing like a monster on the big screen of a Times Square Movie Theater. Although I really would have preferred flying to London to see it live…. back to reality…

Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, the actor playing Sherlock in the new series) and Jonny Lee Miller (who was on Dexter as a scary serial killer a couple of years ago) alternate playing Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster. My friend and I saw Benedict Cumberbatch as the cold and withdrawn Victor Frankenstein. He is haunted, even tortured, by the success of his horrific experiment. He was great.

But it was Jonny Lee Miller as the Monster who captured my sympathy. His performance was extraordinary. He brought to life the monster of Mary’s Shelley original, as opposed to the silent Boris Karloff version or one the many, brought-to-life in-a-lab monsters that followed in Karloffi’s wake.

The movie (or videotaped play) was wonderful and monstrous. The playwright, Nick Dear, went back to the Mary Shelley book for his source material. I’m sure that many people in the theater audience had never read it. It’s not an easy read and the differences between Mary Shelley’s tale of creation and destruction and the one with Igor in a castle, is a long list. I have nothing against Igor, the castle, the angry villagers and the rest of the Frankenstein film iconography. In fact, I love it all. It’s just not part of the original. Nick Dear drew from Mary Shelley’s well and it is shows. The play is startling and the ending in Antarctica with creator and creation locked in an endless duel is perfect.

Danny Boyle directed the play. He’s the artistic director of next month’s Olympic Opening Ceremony in London. I doubt that he has a monster in his plans, but I sort of hope so. He is very good at directing MONSTERS!

If you get a chance to see the HD video, grab it.


  1. Mary Shelley is much in the air. Went to see the Mary Shelley play at Oxford Playhouse couple of weeks ago. You can see the monster lurking in the shadows of her life from the very beginning, especially the treatment and death of her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, with the French Revolution lurking always in the background. Fascinating posting. You were in New York, I was in Oxford (England not Mississippi).

    • Candy

      She’s in the air all over!
      I know I’m not the only New Yorker obsessed with Mary Shelly and her legacy. A few weeks ago I went to an exhibit a the New York Public Library’s Main branch (the famous one on 5th Avenue with the lion statues that everyone uses in movies) about Shelley & his Circle, but Mary — and her MONSTER — were prominent. It’s hard to illuminate a poet’s work when his wife’s phenomenal creation looms large.

  2. It’s been a very long time since I read Mary Shelley’s original so I think I’m going to start by trying to find that. I too love the original film version but it’s still an interpretation. Will look out for the play as I love Cumberbatch in Sherlock 😀

    • Candy

      Just the fact that you’ve ever read it puts you ahead of the crowd. Yes, keep an eye out. I think that the National Theater in London will do the same kind of HD screenings in cities around the world — especially where folks speak English.

    • Candy

      I hope everybody gets the opportunity to see it — especially on one of those super large screens.
      Well, actually it was less BOO scary and more thought provoking.

  3. I’m glad I saw it with Bernard Cumberbatch as Dr. Frankenstein and Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature. I think having seen Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, it was easy to make the association to Dr. Frankenstein. And Miller’s physicality was mesmerizing.

    • Candy

      Totally with you on that!

      Cumberbatch simply seems more cerebral and Johnny Lee Miller is PHYSICAL in his portrayal. He almost looked like he was having a seizure as he came to life and when he struggles with his situation, his ugliness and his desire for connection, his pain radiates from his limbs as much as his face.

      It’s funny because Miller was a manipulative, mind-game kind of killer on Dexter. All in all, a credit to good acting