‘Frankenstein: Some Assembly Required’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 1, 2016

‘Frankenstein: Some Assembly Required’ is the debut production of an independent, emerging theatre company, Feet First Collective. This group includes some of the cream of WA’s younger actors and technicians, who are desperate to give their audience a new experience, reaching right into the nitty gritty of a text. This play for adults is being presented as part of the 2016 Fremantle Festival.

The story has been adapted and developed from Mary Shelley’s 200-year old classic by the Feet First team especially for this production.

The performances are 80 minutes without intermission. They take the audience through the ancient, innermost rooms of Fremantle’s iconic Moores Building with its Contemporary Art Gallery at 46 Henry Street, Fremantle. The voyeuristic audience members are required to stand, walk and climb stairs (on several occasions) during the performance, as they move from one intimate location to another.

Please note that the Moores Building does not have wheelchair access to the first floor.

The performances are at 7.00 and 9.00 pm, nightly until 6th November. The numbers for each performance are strictly limited so booking is strongly advised.

 

The scene is the year 1800, in Frankenstein’s Gothic family home. There are several rooms used for this presentation, all of them have been carefully furnished with antiques. Towards the end of the performance, we arrive in a cold forest. Exhibition, set and costume design by Olivia Faraone and Olivia Tartaglia, with costume construction by Bianca Roose and Hannah Miller. Props by Kelly Fregon.

     On arrival, the audience are guided into a large, old-fashioned dining room, furnished with quality antiques even including a Grandmother clock. On the large dining tables are flutes of wine and an array of nibbles (generously provided by Moore and Moore Café). Two young girls in cream silk dresses, mingle with the assembled guests, introducing themselves as the bridesmaids. They are Mary (Bubble Maynard) and Justine (Jessica Moyle) relatives of Victor Frankenstein (Andrew David Sutherland).

     Into the room strides Henry (Declan Brown), Victor’s manservant. He is dressed in top hat and tails. After warmly welcoming us to the Frankenstein home, he tells us that we are guests at the wedding of Victor and Elizabeth Lavenza (Zoe Hollyoak). The doors from the street open and the happy couple enter.

     The lights flicker, there is loud clash and Victor appears to go into a trance. Time for the wedding party seems to stand still. The reception takes an evil turn. The lights return to normal and the warm, convivial atmosphere returns to the celebration. Strains of a violin – being played rather poorly – can be heard from upstairs. Victor invites us to join the happy couple and watch his young brother playing the violin.

     We pass into the master bedroom with its tasteful décor of drapes and furnishings. Soon we venture into Victor’s eerie laboratory, where we observe the pathetic sight of The Creature (Haydon Wilson) with numerous wires attached, he is strapped onto an operating bench.

     As the story progresses, the lonely Creature begs for a true companion and friend – a female friend.

The Director and movement coach, Teresa Izzard, has been nominated for prestigious awards, including an Equity Award, for her previous productions. Teresa, who is an inaugural member of the Australian Directors Lab, is assisted in the directing by actor and TV personality, Bubble Maynard. She has further dramaturg advice from the admired playwright, Finn O’Branagáin.

Because of the number of room used, the lighting and sound had to be operated remotely with instructions from the stage manager, Georgia Smith or her assistant Kennah Parker. This unusual prompt system worked perfectly, with all of the lighting cues (Lighting Design, Dana Ioppolo) and sound effects precisely cued (Sound and AV Design by George Ashforth).

Thanks to the vocal coach, Donald Woodburn, the cast delivered their lines in a style compatible with the era. The Creature – Haydon Wilson – was magnificent as he portrayed a poor soul attempting to achieve co-ordination of movement and speech; he really grabbed your heart and sympathy.

Unlike the clunky, mindless cinema monsters, this creature had an exceptional brain and could sum up those around him. Sutherland’s Frankenstein was disturbing as we watched his bipolar, schizophrenic tendencies. Hollyoak was strong as the heartbroken bride, coping with her new marital world. Master of Ceremonies, Henry, had a joie de vivre that contrasted perfectly with the turmoil. Sensitivity was brought to the play with the beautiful, caring bridesmaids doing their duty and protecting the bride.

The visual and auditory effects of the laboratory were clever, inventive and thoroughly disturbing. Who was really the monster? Could things have ended differently?

This play was fresh, innovative and succeeded on so many levels. Possibly draining and disturbing for the actors, but thank you, it was worthy your suffering. Congratulations.