Theatre review: Manual Cinema's Frankenstein, Underbelly - Bristo Square. Edinburgh

Manual Cinema provides a fresh spin on the Mary Shelley classic.
Manual Cinema provides a fresh spin on the Mary Shelley classic.
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When it comes to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, cinema has a lot to answer for.

Manual Cinema's Frankenstein, Underbelly - Bristo Square. Edinburgh * * * *

The classic movie monster that we have seen in almost every film adaptation is a far cry from her original vision. In Manual Cinema’s multimedia adaptation of the Gothic classic, theatre and film are monstrously fused to tell Shelley’s masterpiece, and the life of the woman behind it.

The stage itself is cluttered and crowded with filming equipment and all sorts of strange instruments. Hanging above it is a screen, onto which is projected the puppetry and live action sequences we see being created on stage. In the style of silent-era cinema, the “film” contains no words and is accompanied by a live orchestral score.

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The diverse techniques and styles incorporated into the production act as an homage to cinema and a fascinating insight into how it is made. This is only the tip of the iceberg, which is reflected in the tactile quality of the film. Seeing the film alone may not be as entertaining, since we have seen it done so many times before. Watching the production alone may not be entertaining: after all, they block each other far too much to discern what is going on. But together it is a magical experience. Not only is the story gripping, but so it seeing how it is realised.

It seems fitting that one of the first ever cinematic adaptations should be given the Manual Cinema treatment. As an adaptation, they continue the tradition of taking creative liberties with the source material, although to their credit they are more loyal than many of their feature-length counterparts. The result is a theatrical, cinematic, and above all dramatic adaptation.

Until 26 August

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