Tag Archives: Richmond Theatre

Frankenstein

★★★

Richmond Theatre

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Richmond Theatre

Reviewed – 18th November 2019

★★★

 

“This production does breathe new life into Mary Shelley’s story with its inventiveness, but it perilously runs the risk of killing it too”

 

What’s the name of Mary Shelley’s monster? ‘Frankenstein’ is the unanimous response. Wrong! Shelley never ascribed a name to the creature created by Victor Frankenstein, the scientist who meddles with nature. Although in Rona Munro’s stage adaptation the misnomer is given an extra twist as Munro places Shelley herself into the action. It is an interesting framing device that mirrors the story’s concerns: Shelley has created her own monster which, now set unleashed into the world, is beyond her control.

Eilidh Loan, as the young eighteen-year-old writer, is a feral creature herself with a lacerating energy, scratching words onto her pages as the tale unfolds around her. She is the writer, and the director, of her characters as she prompts and taunts, and is never kind to them. But there lies part of the problem – her grating Cockney detachment strips the drama of its sense of tragedy and sadness. You rather miss, too, the presence of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. It seems a shame to ignore the real-life story behind the conception of the dark tale, which is almost as famous as the novel itself. Maybe Munro’s intention was that we, the audience, were the ones cooped up with Mary in the chalet on Lake Geneva. Loan frequently spoke out to the auditorium as though she were being challenged to come up with her own terrifying tale. But lines like “Is it frightening enough?” or “It’s my nightmare” are too simplistic to realise the effect.

Although the stilted characterisation and dialogue dampen the atmosphere, it is more than compensated for in Patricia Benecke’s foreboding staging. Becky Minto’s icy set of balconies and bare trees like withered lungs suggest the dread and despair, punctuated by Simon Slater’s bolts of sound that feed the melodrama. At times, though, the cast are forced to try to outdo the setting with occasional overdramatic delivery. Ben Castle Gibb, as Victor Frankenstein, is the most successful at avoiding this with a manic performance that captures the extremes of obsession without drumming home the point. Michael Moreland’s Monster bizarrely speaks like Kathy Burke’s own monstrous creations; Kevin and Perry, which doesn’t help lift him out of the cartoon like portrayal Munro has written for him, and the other characters.

Sprinklings of feminist anachronisms and modern-day analogies to ethnic intolerance, fear and prejudice border on patronising and melt the glacial force of Shelley’s original. Trying to balance the entertainment value with a subliminal sermon is unnecessary and it dilutes the power. This production does breathe new life into Mary Shelley’s story with its inventiveness, but it perilously runs the risk of killing it too.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

 

ATG Tickets

Frankenstein

Richmond Theatre until 23rd November then UK tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Iolanthe | ★★★★ | May 2018
84 Charing Cross Road | ★★★★ | June 2018
Tom Gates | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

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Tom Gates

Tom Gates
★★★★

Richmond Theatre & UK Tour

Tom Gates

Tom Gates

Richmond Theatre & UK Tour

Reviewed – 20th March 2019

★★★★

 

“a joyous piece of children’s theatre – and is sure to bring a smile to old and new fans alike”

 

For any family with junior school age children, Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates books have become a familiar and popular addition to our bookshelves. Liz has now written and illustrated fifteen books in the series, and when I mentioned to my ten year old son that Tom Gates was to be ‘Live on Stage’, he was very excited to see how that would work. Director, Neal Foster and Author, Liz Pichon agreed that rather than base the show on one of her many books, they would create a brand new story, and so in a first for the Birmingham Stage Company, they worked together to do just that.

The story starts in the classroom: Tom has got three sad faces on the class achievement chart. If he gets four, he will not be allowed to go on the class outing to the local biscuit factory. At home, his grandparents (the Fossils) have decided to renew their wedding vows, and preparations are in full swing.

Jackie Trousdale’s set is mainly comprised of six drop down screens that have Liz’s very stylised doodles projected onto them. These go up and down as the scenes change with amazing effect. Doors and windows appear and disappear in the blink of an eye, and the rain cloud that follows sister, Delia around constantly is very amusing. My favourite scenes involved Dad (Daniel Harkin), driving Tom and his friends around town in his borrowed hot dog van, all down to a clever projected illustration and some impeccably choreographed acting.

The cast work extremely well together, many playing multiple roles to deliver a fun and cohesive script. Matthew Chase proficiently leads the cast as the titular Tom, his signature hairstyle is lifted straight from Liz’s illustrations and is a nice touch. Justin Davies and Ashley Cousins as school friends, Norman and Marcus, really capture their characters – we all knew similar people at school! Amy Hargreaves shines through as sugary classmate Amy and the emotionally charged big sister, Delia.

Some of the funniest scenes involved Ashley Cousins as Granny and Matthew Gordon as Grandad. Grandad teaching Tom to play the spoons and a wedding arch made of Zimmer frames were among the highlights. Look out for the special wedding carriage, it’s very funny and brilliantly designed.

The whole piece is woven with original music by Liz’s husband, Mark Flannery, with lyrics written by Liz herself. The songs are catchy and witty, and bring more fun to the proceedings. Tom Gates – Live on Stage is a joyous piece of children’s theatre – and is sure to bring a smile to old and new fans alike.

Reviewed by Emma Gradwell

Photography by Mark Douet

 


Tom Gates

Richmond Theatre until 24th March then UK Tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Iolanthe | ★★★★ | May 2018
84 Charing Cross Road | ★★★★ | June 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com