Alive

Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this group of young actors from Portsmouth Grammar School has put together an interpretation of the novel that needs work, but which is nonetheless impressive.

The choice of casting a woman as Frankenstein introduces a fascinating gendered element to the story and an uncomfortable sexualised tension between Frankenstein and her creature.

Condensing the original plot from Shelley’s novel – the creature’s creation, Frankenstein’s rejection of him, and the difficult and isolated development of the creature – the play has closely lifted extracts from the text as dialogue, but delves further into the creature’s sensual experiences. The performance exposes the audience to the physical discoveries of the world by the ‘newborn’ through light, sound and colour, abstractedly presenting us with physical experiences, rather than telling us through monologue.

Aspects that made this performance engaging were the physicality, the use of multimedia, and an atmosphere that on several occasions gave me goose bumps. At times a sensation was evoked of the entire audience and stage being enveloped by a living organism with the sound of a heartbeat and a pulsating mass of bodies onstage breathing heavily and fervently, moving as one. The focus on sensations and emotions is emphasised by the use of multimedia, including an interrogation of Frankenstein that involves a video camera pointed at her by her interrogator, the feed of which is then projected on the wall behind her, forcing us to confront the fear, pain and sadness that her face conveys.

The choice of casting a woman as Frankenstein introduces a fascinating gendered element to the story and an uncomfortable sexualised tension between Frankenstein and her creature. Rather than the traditional masculine tension between the characters and the near complete exclusion of femininity, the physical aggression against her by her male creature becomes sexualised, uncomfortable, and in one instance even suggests at intimacy.

The play needs work, however. Several performances were bland and flat, lacking emotion and depth. In some scenes dialogue felt rushed. To make it stand out from the many Frankenstein adaptations, it would need more sharpening of the dialogue, to dig deeper emotionally and further draw out the creature’s introduction to the world, people and language. But for such a young theatre group, this complex and insightful interpretation is an impressive concept that has potential.

Reviews by Katherine Price

St.George's School for Girls

Rabbie

★★★
Paradise in The Vault

Alive

★★★

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Performances

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The Blurb

A brand new devised piece by the PGS company of young actors. Inspired by themes and elements from Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein, Alive will unfold with the urgency of a fevered dream in this resonant and atmospheric venue. Alive confronts us with universal questions that pierce right through to the heart of the human condition. Using a vivid mix of visceral live performance and multimedia, this new play promises to shine a light onto the primal forces that reside within us all. Not to be missed.

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