Friday, 29 April 2011

I will be with you on your wedding-night. . .


I found a copy of this poster for Frankenstein in Love in an envelope when I was going through my father's stuff. It comes from early in my career when I still sent things back to my parents to show what their son was up to in London.

It's not a great poster. I am not, and never have been, a real graphic designer. That rose is pretty awful, too - like some fat red cabbage. But it does have great sentimental value.

I had a short-lived career as a designer of theatre posters back in the early 1980s. I say career advisedly, because it could never have provided a living. The posters I did for Clive Barker's Dog Company I did for free, as he was a friend, and the ones I subsequently did were so poorly paid, I may as well have done them for nothing.

The Dog Company posters were where it began really. They spawned other posters at the Cockpit Theatre and at the Drill Hall. Eventually I ended up doing posters for the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs (of which Danny Boyle was director at the time). Which brings me back to Frankenstein. . .

As an antidote to today's giddiness surrounding a certain royal wedding, we went to see a filmed performance of Frankenstein currently wowing crowds at the National Theatre. The play is an adaptation (by Nick Dear) of Mary Shelley's novel, directed by that same Danny Boyle.

The two stars of the play swap roles nightly. One night Benedict Cumberbatch is Victor Frankenstein and Johnny Lee Miller is the Creature (the version we saw), the next Cumberbatch is the Creature and Miller is Frankenstein.

I'm a bit of a fan of Johnny Lee Miller. I like the way he looks for one thing: both modern and somehow also perfect for the Romantic period - he was easily the best thing about the BBC's most recent adaptation of Jane Austin's Emma (a book, incidentally, that was published the same year as Mary Shelley came up with the notion of Frankenstein). And he has charisma, which is a magical thing. He is not exactly intimidating, height-wise, but it was a really physical performance. Cumberbatch was good too - a nice combination of naivety and arrogance. And its easy to imagine that they would be just as good (though very different) in each other's roles.

I have been immersed in the world of Frankenstein for months now, (I am still correcting proofs on Mister Creecher) and it has been a passion for decades, so I was always going to be a difficult audience. I'm not sure the script lived up to the performances or the staging, both of which were superb. And I could have done without the silly tableau of the Industrial Revolution that rolled by at the beginning.

But it was a really good bit of theatre and it won't be the last of these 'live' feeds from the National we go to see. It is not the same as seeing it at the theatre, but there are added benefits - like the close-ups for instance - that make the experience compelling in its own right.

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