The performance of Frankenstein by the Blue Apple Theatre company represents an important element of the Keats-Shelley 200 events programme; it is indeed an honour to be working with this amazing organisation which does so much to support and encourage adults and young people with learning disabilities.
We were pleased and somewhat relieved that on 8th July two live performances were able to take place, as planned, at Winchester’s elegant and historic Theatre Royal. The production was a triumph, despite the complexities of rehearsing during the pandemic and with ongoing social distancing. The cast treated us to professional and full-on performances both on stage and in filmed sequences. Blue Apple actor Tommy Jessop provided a recorded voice-over for the Creature, a life-sized puppet which resembled something between a Wicker Man and a monster. A puppet theatre silhouetted against the darkness formed another effective element of the production, while the set and stage lighting provided a stark and bleak backdrop to Mary Shelley’s gothic tale.
Frankenstein was first published in 1818 and is probably one of the best-known novels of the nineteenth century. It is studied in schools, colleges and universities across the globe and is the subject of endless fascination by film makers. How refreshing, then, to see a completely different take on it, without a neck bolt in sight.
Although the costumes pointed us towards the early nineteenth century, this innovative and thought-provoking interpretation posed several questions about the times in which we live. Issues of alienation and prejudice are present throughout and this is particularly evident in the filmed cast discussions, shown as part of the production. We were left in little doubt that if you interfere with the natural world, nature will come back to haunt you.
KSMA and the Blue Apple Theatre Company are hoping that it will be possible to organise a touring production of Frankenstein in the early part of 2022, which might incorporate some performances in Italy.
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Richard Conlan, Blue Apple Artistic Director adds:
“Blue Apple were touched to be considered as collaborators with the KSMA; to have our work taken so seriously by such an august collection of remarkable people made us feel that we were in the best of company. We tried to repay this trust and recognition by having faith in the source material and bringing Mary Shelley’s words (so often ignored) into the light.
We used her central characters and their dilemmas as ways of shining light on the present but I’d love to think she’d approve of what we did. One audience member called our show an ‘eco-feminist’ take on the tale and I suspect Mary, and even her parents, might approve of that.
Our cast is made up of people only recently brought into civic society – it is chilling to know that not until the early 1980’s were children with Downs Syndrome even considered capable of reading. These historic ‘outsiders’ know what it means to live liminal lives, just as Victor Frankenstein’s ‘Adam’ discovered when he was shunned from the towns and villages of Germany.
We will continue to have a relationship with the KSMA in the hope that we can re-mount our show for an international tour – bringing the tale spawned of ‘the year without a summer’ to life for new audiences.”
We are also grateful to two members of the Frankenstein cast, Sam Dace and Lawrie Morris who performed extracts to entertain us prior to the Keats Water Meadows Walk which started at Winchester College the following Sunday.
To see the photos of the performance, click here.