Frankenstein and his Creation are supposed to be the important ones in this play, re-written by Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley and directed by one of the most talented directors of our days, Danny Boyle -the master of emotion, I may say- but Naomie Harris is what makes us shudder with her short but powerful performance in the scene of her meeting with the Creature. The dangerous Tia Dalma of Pirates of the Carribean fame is here a lovely young girl who is innocent and devoted to a quasi-cruel and indifferent scientist and husband-to-be, only to find the worse possible fate in the end.
The divine character that she plays has all the youthful elements of some rare type of people that can see with the eyes of heart, or should I say soul, and not with the ones made of flesh that say half the truth. She, Elizabeth, is the only person on earth not to be disgusted by the Creature's looks, but to see in him the perfect miracle of creation. She is ready to be his friend and companion, unaware of the fact that the Creature only chose to meet her to enact his revenge and satiate his bitter feelings towards his master. Her honest performance brought tears in my eyes, thus I have to give it a lengthy mention, not that the rest of them were less awesome.
First of all, I want to credit the brilliant idea Danny Boyle had to make the principal actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller swap roles every night: when one of them was playing the Master, Victor Frankenstein the other one was playing the Creature and vice-versa. Needless to say, this process facilitated mutual understanding of the situation and the bond they share, a father and child bond, and perfected their play. It also gave the audiences a chance to study the art of acting from two different perspectives, if any of them had the courage to see the emotional and long play twice. I didn't, as a mere faraway viewer of the broadcasted version; I enjoyed Miller as Frankenstein and Cumberbatch as the Creature -they both won an Olivier award for Best Actor- and I have to say that the Creature and the actor portraying it was pretty impressive with its physical work and tormented speech. In a short making of in the beginning, each one mentioned his starting point/inspiration: observation of his son for one of them and of people recovering from a stroke or other physical injury. The latter I found very deep as a method, as well as the acknowledgement in his acting of the effort that certain people have to put body and mind to make their limbs move again, something that the rest of us take for granted.
The set with its hundreds of bulbs hanging over the stage to remind us of one of the first scientific inventions, electricity, but also of the biblical quote of creation "Let there be light" or "Fiat Lux" is visually stunning and equally full of reference; the supporting cast is also doing its best to create atmosphere and accord. I also liked the costumes a lot and the terrifying make up of the Creature (you can watch a trailer here); not an easy job, I'm sure.
I don't know if cinephiles love theatre the same way that I do, but do try it, guys. The chance that National Theatre offers to viewers worldwide to revisit from their local cinemas the most successful and important plays of every season is not to be missed.
* Want to see more of Naomie Harris? Don't miss her in Skyfall (2012), the new James Bond film to be released later this year as an pre-Christmas treat.