Brighton Fringe 2011
Based on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, this new solo show traces one man’s journey from joy to madness in a physically dynamic reworking of a classic tale. Speaking to the core of human experience – passion, love, grief, isolation and identity – "Frankenstein" looks unflinchingly at the monsters within us all.
The stage is empty, apart from a small table playing host to a small cup and saucer. Stark white light illuminates the stage – (unfortunately) it stays this way throughout.
One of the wonderful liberties which can be taken by physical theatre companies such as; Karavan Ensemble, Schaulplatz Theatre and PUSH Theatre is the use of lighting and sound to compliment a performer’s physicality on stage.
After all, place a performer on an empty stage with standard lights, and they are just a performer under standard stage lights. However, fill the same stage with a gentle wash of colour and cast a couple of shadows on the face of the same performer and suddenly the audience are invited to imagine, to escape into a much more sensory experience. In that instant they are no longer passively watching what is in front of them- they are involved, whether in Metamorphosis or the ‘Scottish play’.
Give Manuel Lavandera a slight shadow or coloured light and he could truly become immersed in the atmosphere and aesthetics of the (whole) performance. The use of the body is of course universal and by many considered the ‘universal language’ of performance.
To quote something Yoshi Odiawith (Japanese physical theatre practitioner) once said in a international theatre workshop;
‘…from the tip of your finger to the moon is your own responsibility…’
Translated in to simpler terms he suggests that a performer must be in complete control of what his actions portray to an audience (especially in silence).
Never has this been truer than in Lavandera’s portrayal of the Doctor and his monster, In his physicality he is in control of every movement, especially as the aged, hunched character playing out the performance as mwell as the Frankenstein itself.
With precise skill and energy Lavandera creates the grotesque ‘Butoh’ (Japanese theatrmovement) -inspired movements of the doctor’s monster as the audience witness the transition from Doctor to the ‘Monster’, also seen in the final scenes in the physical degeneration into the elderly character.
Though the story is sometimes lost in translation from page to stage, this can not be put solely onto the performer but also Britt Fortsberg as director. As Fortsberg states on her website ‘The actor’s search for the character starts in the body’ and this is very obvious in her physical directing of Lavander’s approach to ‘becoming’ Frankenstein.
However, the production did unfotunately lack (as mentioned previously) the visual and sensory elements which lighting helps to create and demands of a (sometimes) passive audience.
Often during the performance one was willing the lighting state to change (even a little) just to add that extra element to the very physical and interesting performance given by Lavandera. Even until the (very) long fade out on the show’s ending, the lighting stayed the same until black out. Understandably the Marlborough Theatre is a small theatre venue, yet with just a slight dimming of the lights whilst Lavandera embodied Frankenstein, those lights may have created the shadows needed to differentiate Lavandera wonderful character acting towards the end.
Lavandera’s performance as a powerful and very skilled physical theatre performer must be acknowledged. Britt Fortsberg should also be complimented on her eye for detail when directing the physical aspects of Lavandera’s performance.
What this show may benefit from is having an associate director, or lighting/production designer look and work closely with both Britt Fortsberg and Manuel Lavandera to truly bring Frankenstein to ‘life’. Also, a closer attention to the ‘story telling’ aspect delivered by Lavandera so that the ‘story’ is not lost towards the end as it becomes more dramatic as some of the details seemed rushed.
A recommended show if only for Manuel Lavandera’s wonderfully physical portrayal of Dr Frankenstein’s monster.