Next up in the National Theatre’s sensational season of free live streams is a real gothic treat: an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, directed by Danny Boyle for the theatre back in 2011. The story of a scientist who strives to endow the inanimate with life, creating a monster, stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Dr Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. Or the Creature and Victor Frankenstein: in a uniquely theatrical gimmick, Cumberbatch and Miller alternated playing the doctor and his creation every night during the run.
Charitably, this emphasised the existential dimension of Shelley’s story: how is a man pulled together from random body parts supposed to behave, and isn’t that basically all of us? Uncharitably, it was just big show-off acting. Props should also surely be given to the NT’s hair and make-up department for having to cope with twice the work.
Either way, the production was heralded as a tour de force, with critics frothing, monsterlike, in their praise for Dr Cumberstein and Frankenmiller. ‘Both Cumberbatch and Miller deserve respect (if you’re in the front row, prepare for an eyeful),’ said Time Out’s reviewer. ‘But the more muscular Miller is a revelation as the Creature. He brings a powerful brutish innocence to this manmade baby, rejected at birth, and makes his many acts of destruction seem elemental and therefore less irredeemable.’
We also praised Danny Boyle’s directorial flair: ‘Boyle does a film-tastic job of whisking us from location to location on the Olivier’s revolving stage. Allegory meets nightmare in the spectacular steampunk train that comes whistling and sparking towards the audience, the wedding-night murder in Frankenstein’s whiter-than-white family house and in the figure of the Creature’s bride, a goddess sutured together from corpses.’
The NT’s ‘Frankenstein’ was a huge smash and seen by more than 800,000 people in cinemas around the world as part of National Theatre Live. See what all the fuss was about tonight.
‘Frankenstein’ with Cumberbatch as the Creature is screening on YouTube for free as part of National Theatre at Home from 7pm BST tonight (Thu Apr 30). The version with Miller as the Creature screens from 7pm BST tomorrow (Fri May 1). Each is available for a week after broadcast.
See the full programme of free streams from the National Theatre.
Find more incredible theatre to stream online right now.
In other monstrously excellent news, Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’ starring Mark Rylance is coming back to a London stage in 2021.