What happens when monster is unleashed by a woman

Polly Frame as Dr Frankenstein and Ed Gaughan as the Creature in Northern Stage's production touring to the Crucible Sheffield
Polly Frame as Dr Frankenstein and Ed Gaughan as the Creature in Northern Stage's production touring to the Crucible Sheffield

Dr Frankenstein, Crucible Theatre, Until March 25 {https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/|Sheffield Theatres|click here}

Dr Frankenstein director Lorne Campbell made some drastic decisions when he adapted the famous story for the stage, and the main one was turning Victor Frankenstein into Victoria.

What if you make Victor Frankenstein into Victoria?

He said: “That was the first idea that came in relation to the production. It’s a novel I’ve known and loved for a long time.

“I was thinking about the author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and her relationship with her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, a hugely important figure in early feminist thinking.

“One of the things Mary Wollstonecraft had thrown at her was that she wasn’t a woman, she was a new species.

“That made me think about what she was writing about in the novel. There is a great deal about her mother and herself, running away from home at 16 when she eloped with the poet Shelley.”

The couple fled across Europe, evading debtors, and Mary had to cope with losing one baby and nursing another through illness.

Lorne added: “It felt like an entirely female novel. That made me think, ‘what about if you make Victor Frankenstein into Victoria?’”

Lorne said that emphasised the idea of the book being about outsiders and ‘others’.

He added: “The way the creature is treated by Victoria and the rest of society feels very relevant to how today’s society treats the most vulnerable and those who are perceived as being different from ourselves.”

In this version, the creature is not made from assembled dead parts but from a man who Victoria brings back to life.

He is unable to speak and cannot remember anything about his former life.

Victoria Frankenstein is a brilliant young scientist who has to fight prejudice against women to be able to study and gain knowledge.

Her brilliance enables her to make discoveries that no-one has achieved but she does not recognise anything of the outsider in herself in the creature, so she abandons it to its fate and the hostility of the outside world.

Lorne said: “That moment of failure unleashes all the tragedy that follows in the story.”

However, Lorne said that the show “isn’t all Gothic horror and screaming. Even the creature has a laugh or two!”

Set designer Tom Piper hasn’t gone for the Hammer horror film look, either.

He had to make the touring set very adaptable as the show is in the Crucible with its three-sided thrust stage, unlike most theatres, where it’s seen head-on.

Lorne said: “The Crucible is one of my absolute favourite theatres. It’s lovely to be able to bring this show there.

“It’s such a beautiful stage and Tom did a wonderful job of transforming it.”

Lorne looked at modern-day advances in science that make the idea of bringing the dead back to life come eerily closer to becoming reality.

He said: “There’s a lab in Japan that has got the first licence to reanimate part of the human brain.

“They are slicing sections out of them and turning them back into something like a computer, using organic matter to process information.”

Maybe his next show will be about a real-life Dr Frankenstein…