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Frankenstein

Directed for Blackeyed Theatre

Cast : Ben Warwick, Louis Labovitch, Lara Cowan, Max Gallagher, Ashley Sean-Cook


Creative Team


Produced by Adrian McDougall

Directed by Eliot Giuralarocca

Stage adaptation - John Ginman

Puppet and Puppetry - Yvonne Stone

Music - Ron McAlister

Musical Director - Ellie Verkerk

Set Designer - Victoria Spearing

Lighting Design -Charlotte McClelland

Costume Design - Anne Thomson

SM Ruth Burgon, Rosie Burgess and Claire Childs


Director's programme note


In 1816, a 17 year old Mary Shelley wrote down a story that she said had “haunted her midnight pillow”, and the dark, gothic fairytale that is Frankenstein was born. The novel’s subtitle, ’the modern Prometheus’, was a reference to the Titan in Greek mythology that stole fire from the Gods and gave it to man that he moulded from clay. His punishment was to be bound to a rock for all eternity, his liver eaten by eagles. Frankenstein 'steals’ the secret ‘elixir of life’ from nature and re-animates dead matter and his punishment is to be forced to confront the consequences of his actions. 


The structure of Mary Shelley’s novel takes the form of a story that contains other stories within it. Our play start with Captain Robert Walton recounting his journey to the North Pole where he meets an exhausted, half-dead Frankenstein who in turn, proceeds to tell us the story of his life and within that story we find another story, the Creature’s story. This 'Russian doll’ structure had a nightmarish, dream like quality that fired my imagination. Questions formed in my mind...How reliable was Frankenstein? Could what he says be true? Had he hallucinated the whole thing? Is he in fact a raving madman?…All we know for sure is that he’s telling us a story. And so I decided that we should embrace this element of storytelling and absolutely make it the artistic touchstone for the piece. So we have ‘set' the play on Robert Walton’s ship 'The Prometheus', upon which Frankenstein clambers aboard and in turn the ship ropes and crates and the materials and the furniture that Frankenstein finds there become what he uses, and we use theatrically, to help to tell his story. 


Following on from this, it seemed important that the Creature should spring from Frankenstein’s imagination, like a dark, disjointed gothic nightmare. The creature too has elements and accents of the world of Walton's ship, of cloth and rope and sack and stiches, something that has literally been willed into life by Frankenstein as if wrenched from the set itself. For me, the beauty and excitement of theater is that it is live, unfolding in front of you as you watch and the decision to have the creature as a life-sized Bunraku style puppet seemed to fit perfectly with this approach. I hope that we can mirror Frankenstein’s obsession with bringing dead matter to life by animating, manipulating and giving life to the puppet in front of you hopefully creating the illusion that it has a life of it’s own. It seemed to me to be a lovely theatrical metaphor for the act of creation in the story itself.


It is 200 years since the novel was written and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has become a powerful creation myth to rival Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. It has given rise to the concept of the mad scientist obsessively pushing the boundaries of scientific endeavour and playing and usurping God with all the ethical and moral questions that flow from this. Indeed the very name of the doctor has come to stand as a byword for all our anxieties about scientific progress and innovation often used as a prefix when discussing pioneering but ethically or morally contentious science in fields as diverse as DNA, 'test tube’ fertilisation, food production, Artificial intelligence, organ transplantation and genetic engineering. 


The man that received the very first heart transplant said that he 'felt like Frankenstein’, though he should more accurately have said that he felt like the Creature. His confusion was understandable; it is a common misconception in the public consciousness that Frankenstein is the name of the monster. In fact, in the novel Victor Frankenstein doesn’t even give the creature a name. I think Mary Shelley would have approved of the irony!


I really hope that you enjoy the show as much as we have enjoyed creating it


Press Reviews


★★★★

Mary Shelley would have loved it 

Daily Express



★★★★★

a masterful retelling of the classic Gothic novel……unique and captivating 

Broadsheet Boutique



Masterfully constructed 

The Stage



★★★★★

an excellent production with a fantastically talented and versatile cast 

North West End



★★★★

Guaranteed to send a chill up the spine 

London City Night



★★★★

This production could be a gateway for inspiring younger audiences to love live theatre

Theatre South East



Story-telling, imagination and technical expertise: this is fine, well-crafted theatre

Eastbourne Herald



★★★★

Yvonne Stone’s monster is nothing short of sublime 

TV Bomb



Ben Warwick gives a glittering performance as anguished Victor Frankenstein

Susan Elkin, Sardines Magazine



★★★★

Where this production excels is the company’s sense of ensemble

Teaching Drama Magazine



a spectacularly challenging and innovative contemporary production…not to be missed 

Palatinate



Fast-paced, creative and stirring

Yorkshire Times



incredible puppetry 

Outline Magazine



★★★★

Theatrical storytelling at its finest 

Mind The Blog



★★★★

Story-telling, imagination and technical expertise: this is fine, well-crafted theat

Theatre Things



★★★★

An atmospheric, powerful performance 

Always Time For Theatre



★★★★

Theatrical storytelling at its finest

Mind The Blog



★★★★

This production could be a gateway for inspiring younger audiences to love live theatre

Reviews Gate



A wonderfully talented cast

View From The Cheap Seat 



★★★★

The Monster Chills

Paul In London



★★★★

Superb adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel

Weekend Notes





National Tour : 2017

Jan 25  Bridge House Theatre, Warwick  01926 776438


Jan 26 - 2  New Theatre Royal

Lincoln  01522 519999


Jan 31 - Feb 1  Norwich Playhouse

Norwich  01603 598598


Feb 2 - 4  Harrogate Theatre

Harrogate  01423 502116


Feb 7 - 11  Greenwich Theatre

Greenwich  020 8858 7755


Feb 13 - 15  Malvern Theatres

Malvern 01684 892277


Feb 17 - 18  Lichfield Garrick

Lichfield  01543 412121


Feb 21  Civic Theatre

Chelmsford  01245 606505


Feb 22 EM Forster Theatre

Tonbridge  01732 304241


Feb 23  Cornerstone

Didcot  01235 515144


Feb 24  Sandpit Theatre

St Albans  01727 799565


Feb 27 - 28  Auden Theatre

Holt  01263 713444


Mar 1  Key Theatre

Peterborough  01733 207239


Mar 2  Palace Theatre

7Newark  01636 655755


Mar 3 - 4  Carriageworks

Leeds  0113 376 0318


Mar 7 - 9 Theatre Royal

Bury St Edmunds  01284 769505


Mar 10  The Broadway

Barking  020 8507 5607


Mar 11  Gulbenkian Theatre

Canterbury  01227 769075


Mar 14  Town Hall

Loughborough  01509 231914


Mar 16  Grand Theatre

Lancaster  01524 64695


Mar 18  Town Hall

Bishop Aukland  03000 269524


Mar 21 - 22  Lighthouse

Poole  01202 280000


Mar 25  The Regal Theatre

Tenbury Wells  01584 811442


Tour Dates - 2016

Sept 22 - 24  Wilde Theatre

Bracknell  01344 484123


Sept 27  The Lights

Andover  01264 368368


Sept 28  Octagon Theatre

Yeovil  01935 422884


Sept 29 - Oct 1  The Haymarket

Basingstoke  01256 844244


Oct 3 - 5  Theatre Severn

Shrewsbury  01743 281281


Oct 7  Mechanics

Burnley  01282 664400


Oct 11 - 12  Corn Exchange

Newbury  0845 5218 218


Oct 13  Stahl Theatre

Oundle 01832 273930


Oct 14  Roxburgh Hall

Stowe  01280 825710


Oct 16  Palace Theatre

Mansfield  01623 633133


Oct 17 - 18  Gala Theatre

Durham  03000 266600


Oct 19  Middlesbrough Theatre

Middlesbrough  01642 815181


Oct 20  Alnwick Playhouse

Alnwick 01665 510785


Oct 21  Queens Hall

Hexham  01434 652477


Oct 22  The Brunton

Musselburgh  0131 6652240


Oct 25  Macrobert

Stirling  01786 466666


Oct 26 - 27  Adam Smith Theatre

Kirkcaldy  01592 583302


Oct 28 - 29  Dundee Rep

Dundee  01382 223530


Oct 31 - Nov 1  Towngate Theatre

Basildon 01268 465465


Nov 3  New Theatre Royal

Portsmouth  023 9264 9000


Nov 4  The Berry Theatre

Hedge End  023 8065 2333


Nov 5  Thomas Hardy School Theatre

Dorchester  01305 266926


Nov 8  The Woodville

Gravesend  08442 439 480


Nov 11  Trinity Theatre

Tunbridge Wells  01892 678 678


Nov 12  Theatre Royal

Margate  01843 292795


Nov 15-16  Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre

Taunton  01823 414141


Nov 17-19  Devonshire Park Theatre

Eastbourne  01323 412000


Nov 22  Stantonbury Theatre

Milton-Keynes 01908 324466


Nov 23 - 24  Waterside Arts Centre

Manchester 0161 912 5616


Nov 25  Brewery Arts Centre

Kendal  01539 725133


Nov 26  The Atkinson

Southport  01704 533333


Nov 28 - 30  Mumford Theatre

Cambridge  01223 352932


Dec 1 - 3  Arena Theatre

Wolverhampton  01902 3213


Over 100 shows in 56 towns & cities across the UK in 6 months, performed to 20,000 people.

Pre Rehearsal Interview with Director Eliot Giuralarocca

What was it that enticed you to take on Frankenstein?

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I didn’t need much enticing to be fair. Adrian McDougall the Artistic Director of Blackeyed Theatre approached me with the idea and I jumped at the chance to do it! I knew the novel well and really loved it. It’s a cracking, gripping, classic story that has stood the test of time and when you are presented with an opportunity to have a go at something like that you simply have to grasp it with both hands. I’d directed Dracula for the company a couple of years previously and had really enjoyed trying to meet the challenges that the gothic horror genre presented. Working on the show was a very creative experience and thankfully, Dracula proved to be very popular with audiences too. John Ginman, who had adapted the novel for the stage really well had also been commissioned to adapt Mary Shelley’s novel and that, along with having the same artistic team that I’d used on Dracula on board for Frankenstein was also very reassuring. Working with the same creative team means that we have a creative shorthand and a vital sense of complicite which means that I at least start a project with hope!



What can the audience expect from this production?



We have a cast of five performers to tell the story and I think it’s definitely going to be a busy show for them, a real ensemble piece with a bold ‘actor led’ performance style. A show, I hope,  that celebrates the excitement of live theatre using inventive, bold storytelling to bring Mary Shelley’s dark gothic thriller to life using puppetry, live music and sound and utilising all the skills and abilities that our company of 5 performers possess. If audiences leave the theatre excited and entertained by what they’ve seen as well as being moved and challenged by the complex moral questions that this tale provokes, I’d be delighted!

What do you perceive to be the main tasks and challenges with directing this adaptation?

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I envisage the company on stage all the time bringing the story to life and moving fluidly from one location to the next, puppeteering, changing roles, manipulating objects, moving furniture, creating environments, playing instruments and underscoring the action with percussion, voice and sound as necessary. We’ve been quite ambitious with the vision for this piece with the inclusion of live music and sound as well as the challenge of puppeteering a 6’4” Bunraku style Creature, so just getting the show up and ready in the short rehearsal time available will definitely be challenging, but going for a bold form of storytelling that is focused on the actors’ ability to transform is, I’m sure, the right way to go. With the creature needing three performers to manipulate and animate it, working out which actor will be free and when is a logistical challenge in itself and I’m sure there will be times when it will feel like directing traffic in Trafalgar Square!  I’m a great believer that theatre is often most potent when it is most simple and I think one of my main tasks will be to try and find the the most economical but theatrically inventive way to tell this story while creating a dynamic environment in which the actors can really play, discover, create and ultimately take ownership of the material themselves. The performers have a long tour ahead, so it’s important that they feel fully invested in the artistic creation of the work. The discovery of the theatrical style and the set of story-telling conventions that we will use to serve this particular story will of course be a big challenge and one that will only fully reveal itself in the rehearsal room.


What is the vision and what do you hope to achieve in terms of style?


I suppose for me, one of my touchstones for this piece was that the structure of Mary Shelley’s novel takes 

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takes the form of a story with other stories within it. We start with Captain Robert Walton’s story recounting his journey to the North Pole where he meets an exhausted, half-dead Frankenstein. He in turn, proceeds to tells the story of his life and within that story we find another story, the Creature’s story. This ‘Russian doll’ structure sparked my imagination. For me Frankenstein suddenly felt like a dark gothic fairy tale with a nightmarish and dream like quality that seemed to flow from this. It struck me that those that didn’t know the novel and who were watching in the theatre without any preconceptions might question how reliable Frankenstein is? Could what he says be true? Has he hallucinated the whole thing? Is he in fact a raving madman?…Dramatically, all we know for sure is that he’s telling a story. And so I decided that we should embrace this element and absolutely make the fact that he’s telling the story the focal point of the piece. So we ‘set’ the play on the ship upon which Frankenstein clambers aboard, as that is the only thing that we know to be real, and in turn the ship ropes and crates and the materials and the furniture that he finds there become what he uses, and we use theatrically, to help to tell his story. The creature too therefore has elements and accents of this world of the ship, of cloth and rope and sack and stiches, something that has literally been brought to life by Frankenstein as if wrenched from the set. For me, the beauty and excitement of theatre is that it is live, unfolding in front of you as you watch and having the creature as a life-sized Bunraku style puppet seemed to fit perfectly with this approach. Frankenstein is obsessed with finding the spark of creation, the ‘elix of life’ and bringing to life dead matter. I hope that we will mirror this by bringing the creature to life theatrically, animating, manipulating and giving life to the puppet in front of the audience and hopefully giving them the illusion that it has a life of it’s own. It seemed to me to be a lovely theatrical metaphor for the act of creation in the story and I hope that audiences will embrace it.

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Frankenstein trailer

Video courtesy of Blackeyed Theatre