Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein – Edinburgh Fringe

There are no wings to wait in for this show, as the inner workings of the production are revealed and the cogs of the performance on display in a beautiful kind of chaos. It is incredible to witness this company create an entire silent movie, live on the stage, using old-school projectors, props, puppets, and live music (including plant pots), and therefore impossible to tear your eyes away from.

At the same time, you want to watch everything at once. It would be easy to focus solely on the film itself as it broadcasts on the main screen, and let the machinations blur into the background, however the true spectacle comes from keeping an eye on just how the magic of the movie is made. Actors duck in and out of frame, play with depth and dimensions with projected art, and conjure the show’s soundtrack in real time. Stylishly slick, the show is a sort of Frankenstein itself; a constructed force made up of different moving parts, yet works together so brilliantly that it thankfully avoids the tragic resolution of Shelley’s original novel.

In terms of narrative, the Gothic melancholy and emotional heart of the original story are wonderfully recreated, and only slightly modified for the purposes of streamlining the plot. Despite the predominantly shadow-puppet style of the film, there are some moments of genuine dread and terror, that demonstrate the versatility of the seemingly childlike, fairytale artwork. Additionally, the transition from puppetry to wide-eyed, Hitchcock style live-action, and the claustrophobic Go-Pro close-ups of The Creature also invoke the differing layers of narration that Shelley’s story invites, which I found to be a lovely design choice. This story also involves elements of Mary Shelley’s life itself, and the unsettling circumstances that may have influenced the novel’s key conflicts. Such addition is satisfying, and also helps in the development of repeated images and central themes. Who knew a simple nose boop could make me want to sob?

The cast are methodical and diligent, and watching them zip around the stage beneath the movie screen to hit their marks in order to seamlessly create their story is nothing short of inspiring. It is a testament to the power of innovative practical effects, and getting to see the nuts and bolts of this impeccable machine whir is a privilege.

Engaging and exciting, this company is undoubtedly going to continue creating fantastic theatre, and I for one can’t wait to see it.

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Zoe Robertson

Literature student at The University of Edinburgh - interested in new writing and voices.

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