- The Creature goes from “Monster” to “Hero”
Kevin Grievaux, Stuart Beattie
Boris Karloff, Robert de Niro, Christopher Lee, Aaron Eckhart, Johnny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch. What have they all got in common? They have all played Frankenstein’s monster, or the Creature, as he is now more commonly called. Lee Miller and Cumberbatch even alternated roles, swapping roles between the scientist Victor Frankenstein and the Creature he created every other performance.
The director Danny Boyle explained the take: “Every other night they reinhabit each other. They are mirrors of each other. And it’ll make the play interesting for the actors to do --- they wont be able to settle and they’ll be constantly sparring.“
At the time Boyle was preparing for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics and in fact he described Frankenstein as a “little mini-sabbatical”, a welcome distraction from the Olympics job, which took two full years of preparation.
Nick Dear was responsible for the adaptation in 2011. When one of the drafts suggested opening the play from the Creature’s perspective, Danny Boyle leapt at the opportunity. Because this opening suddenly gave the Creature his voice back! One thing led to another and this prompted Boyle into switching the lead roles around. Starting from the Creature’s point of view was the key to unlocking the adaptation. Once you don’t start with Victor Frankenstein, you need to balance the Creature with this obsession with his creator.
Boyles logical reasoning was: “So we rebalanced our approach by double casting the actors”. Double casting also leaves no room for ego. Even though it meant double the work load for the actors. One actor could start learning one part . Only to find himself thrown by the other performer’s cues. Having both characters on the same page is a distraction . But it is also appropriate. The two lead characters should become the same in a way --- two strands of the same part. They are the creator and son and the
obligation in that relationship is very close.
Mary Shelley’s original text was written in 1816, during a period when she had two poets in her life: her husband Percy Byshe Shelley and Lord Byron.
Cumberbatch’s approach to Frankenstein was that “She sees Byron as the noble savage in the Creature, whereas she sees Shelley as this obsessive social misfit. So her novel makes sense of the psychodrama she found herself in”.
It is also possible that she just tried to scare everyone’s pants off. When it comes to horror lore Shelley’s Frankenstein and Polidoris Vampire and were born during the same night, when the Shelleys and their friends told each other ghost stories, a popular way to pass the time, not only in Charles Dickens Victorian novels. However, a little celebrity gossip has never hurt the marketing of a good story. It becomes the story of the story. And Byron is also said to have inspired the vampire stories, even the tormented Edward in Twilight today is known as a “byronic hero” vampire.
But Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has gone from horror classic to something else. Nick Dear and Danny Boyle wanted to bypass the story’s horror film connections, from days when the Monster was marketed together with the Vampire and the Mummy and other horror classics, and instead concentrate on the ideas explored in Shelley’s original novel, which was in its day extremely futuristic in its vision. Mary Shelley is looking forward to the technical revolution --- 200 years from when she wrote it our technology is such that we are achieving now what she had nightmares about.
Back to the night of the horror stories. Now-a-days vampires, werewolves and even zombies have been cast as the heroes, not the monsters, of today’s bestselling novels and blockbusters. Frankenstein’s monster, or The Creature, has also achieved hero status.
In the graphic novel I , Frankenstein by Kevin Grievaux the Creature, is the saviour of the human world. The Creature is first called Adam, but after accepting his past he starts calling himself Frankenstein, after his father, his creator. So the two strands finally become one, after 200 years.
Adam Frankenstein has the role of all Hollywood blockbusters: looking good, while getting the girl and saving the world, all in one fair swoop. Aaron Eckhart was chosen for the role of Frankenstein when Walt Disney Studios transmediated the graphic novel for the silver screen.
In the future our world, the human world, is protected by gargoyles, but threatened by demons and both sides want, nay both sides need, Frankenstein in order to win. The gargoles want the human world to remain, the demons want to take over completely. This is rather like Cassandra Clares The Mortal Instruments with marked weapons to kill demons, with gargoyles instead of shadow hunters living in desolate churches. The humans no longer believe in the church, they no longer believe in science, they no longer believe in the future. But the gargoyles still believe the humans are worth protecting, rescuing saving … And Frankenstein, as immortal and indestructible as any old vampire, join their ranks to protect humankind. The journey from monster to hero is thus completed for the creature, who now proudly calls himself Frankenstein, after his human father. For no man is an island - and no monster is without a family.