Four of Swords’ incredible interpretation of Frankenstein is, in a phrase, absolutely chilling. The atmosphere, the use of sound, the lighting: all are designed to keep the audience waiting with bated breath. Its ambience and tone makes for a terrifying interactive experience, as the audience bears witness to the terrible effects of Victor Frankenstein’s (played by Emerson Pike) morbid study into the nature of mankind. The intimidating presence of the Creature (Philip Kingslan John), however, is one of the most unique presentations seen in a production of the tale of Frankenstein.
The Creature’s return from death is horrifying to observe, as is his reaction to Frankenstein, and vice versa. The atmosphere of the scene is so tense and personal, it feels as though the audience is intruding on the very thoughts of Victor, or even the Creature, himself. The following scenes feel just as, if not more, intrusive, as Frankenstein is forced to face the consequences of his experiment, and his reaction to this same being. The audience does not only have compassion for the Creature: they are forced to acknowledge and understand the wrongdoings of both sides of the war between creator and creation. By the end of the performance, a question of morality and how far one might be expected to go to exact revenge is trapped in the mind of each and every audience member – a question which may never have an answer.
The writers and performers waste no time with romanticism. Victor is presented as antagonist as well as protagonist, as the guilt and innocence in the character is weighed up and judged. The Creature makes himself judge, jury and executioner, as an explanation for the preconceived link between “goodness” and “beauty” is demanded. By the end of the show, the audience is left wondering who is the hero and who is the villain, or, indeed, if there are any heroes and villains.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The execution of Frankenstein was fantastic, and so atmospheric that walking outside into the exterior of the House was like walking into a completely alien world. The music was beautiful, all devised, arranged and performed by Elisabeth Burnette (who played Elizabeth Lavenza), Mike Giplin (who played Henry Clerval), Charlie Coldfield (who played Alphonese Frankenstein) and Dan Cox. The live performance of music added to the overall ambience of the production, and made up for a large percentage of what made it all feel so real and vivid. The unique concept of watching different scenes whilst walking through the eerie setting of Fulford House was expertly done, giving the audience a real feeling of being a part of the play. Having the actors themselves acknowledge and comment on the presence of the audience only added to the feeling, giving the new interpretation on story-telling a whole new level of realism. The make-up and prosthetics, done by Simon Tytherleigh, gave an unbelievable impression of horror, adding to the overall Gothic element underlying each scene. Along with the literal chill of the House, and the darkness of the countryside outside, it gave the sensation that the audience was really trapped in the middle of nowhere alongside murderers and madmen. Being placed in the middle of a production such as Frankenstein is eerie, ethereal, and best of all, gives such an old-time classic a brand new flavour.
Frankenstein is an absolute delight to watch – especially for a fan of Gothic Horror. Four of Swords’ production, and Sarah White’s direction, is so different to many other interpretations of the same story that it feels like watching an entirely different tale, one brilliantly executed and refreshed. After seeing the performance, it will come across as no wonder why this incredible show has received such critical acclaim. It’s immersive, it’s chilling, and it’s absolutely magnificent.
Frankenstein is showing on 19-22 of October at 7 and 9PM at Great Fulford House. Tickets are £15 (£13 for students), and are available through Four of Swords. It’s not recommended for children under eleven years old.