A cruel ring master, of a travelling freak show, lays it all bare and then some for his audience in a crowd pleasing fashion or so we think. This production of Dr Frankensten does exactly what it says on the tin – ‘treads a thin line between hilarity and morality’.
A small hot studio space overcrowded with wide eyed fringe goers (its early days at this point) envelops this fast paced retelling of Dr Frankensten.
Stumbled across, completely by accident, by my theatre going pal Alice Nicholas – another emerging Playwright based in Bristol (Follow on Twitter: @Alice_Nicholas) we were informed that the show was cancelled because an actor had broken/twisted their leg/ankle (can’t remember which)! But having eventually sat through a mad hour of dramatic mood lifting peaks and dips, the following night, I’m really not surprised. The actors gave it their absolute all.
Encouraged to participate in the retelling of Frankenstein’s story, his monster finally appears as the last and most awaited Victorian crowd pleasing revelation in the ring masters line up. The first of which is an Arabian bearded lady and the second being an Indian fortune teller with crab pincers for hands both of which are forced to take part in acting out this torturous and humorous story. Adopting comedy as the driving force to recognise societies own prejudices against so called ‘freaks’ of nature, Dr Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow then begs the question – where does our morality at the expense of someone else’s pain, for entertainment lie and are we all guilty of this? The simple answer is yes…an exaggerated Indian accent at the expense of a few giggles illustrates this.
However this cruel re-enactment brought back remnants of Enda Walsh’s ‘The Walworth Farce’ (a Fringe gem discovery in 2007) where we learn that the protagonist’s appetite to relive a false truth, is in fact his way of evading a hideous reality – much to be said about the insecurities and cruel torture baring nature of the ring master out to entertain his paying customers. So is he in fact the mogul Dr Frankenstein, sat at the top of our influential entertainment industry? I know…another question but you can see it all in his evil smile.
But he didn’t take all the performance credit; the monster himself resonated as an articulate individual. The deep pain in his voice, when expressing his longing desire for a mate, almost soothes and hurts at the same time making the connection and engagement to his character a more intimate experience.
Unfortunately there were (very few) moments I felt the company had tried to expertly fit in every aspect of theatricality as possible. And with only an hour to absorb the heart of the story I was often asking how and when will it end? Not necessarily a bad thing as for example I was fully immersed during the storytelling part of the performance which used very simple puppetry to almost entrance its audience, but I soon snapped out of this hypnotic state before it was over, leaving me thinking that less is sometimes more.
Overall this show will leave you in fits of giggles or tears with a need to awkwardly adjust in your seat all at the same time.
Dr Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow runs at C Nova until August 26th at 8.40pm