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Review: Frankenstein - An Immersive Show by Midnight Circle Productions

Midnight Circle Productions return to The Crypt in Bethnal Green for a two-week run of Frankenstein: An Immersive Show. It's an intimate portrayal of obsession and grief that reframes the original text into a story focused on one family's downfall.


Immersive Rumours received complimentary tickets to this show and as such, are disclosing this information before our review. They have had no input in the below and all thoughts are our own.

Key art for Frankenstein: An Immersive Show

Following the success of Midnight Circle Productions' adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Grey earlier this year, this new immersive theatre company have seemingly found themselves right at home adapting classic works of fiction into promenade theatre. Taking over the basement level of a Bethnal Green church, this production of Frankenstein is as dark and gothic as one would expect.


Midnight Circle’s version reworks Mary Shelley's original text to succeed as an immersive show - the books original opening, set in the arctic ice, is substituted for the warmth of a tavern as Robert Walton (Benjamin Nicholas) seeks out determined crewmates for his soon-to-be departing voyage. Drowning his sorrows at the back of the tavern is Frankenstein, who is encouraged by Walton to recount the tale of how he lost everything he held dear over a stiff drink.

Production still for Frankenstein: An Immersive Show

Photo: Midnight Circle Productions


With a cast of seven portraying both the Frankenstein family and their inner circle, the character list has been cut down to the essentials, and the books setting gets the same treatment - with all of the action now taking place in and around the family home in Geneva.


The biggest change however is undoubtedly reworking the creature to no longer be an assortment of body parts and chemicals, but is instead a reanimated Caroline Frankenstein - mother to Victor, who now passes away shortly after his return from university to be married.


While the limit of the show's cast size would be more than enough justification for allowing the roles of Caroline and the Creature to be portrayed by the same actor, we suspect it had more to do with them knowing they had someone within the company who would bring something unique to the role..


Nadia Lamin - who is the pieces stand-out performer, has the enviable job of portraying the creature. She brilliantly metamorphosises throughout the duration of the show from something that can only express itself through convulsions and screams of anguish into the voice of reason to Miles Blanch’s tormented Victor.

Production still for Frankenstein: An Immersive Show

Photo: Midnight Circle Productions


A pivotal scene partway through the show where Victor successfully reanimates his dead mother's corpse highlights Lamin's physicality and range. Choreographed by Chris Evans, we witness Caroline's lifeless body - initially being held up by the rest of the cast like a marionette on strings, return to life. Collapsing onto the floor in shock, slowly coming to terms with this second chance at living, her violent screams as she writhes with pain in and amongst the audience are harrowing and affecting. The same fate befalls Harry Harding's Alfonso later in the show, which further cements that scenes of Victor playing God are amongst the show's most engaging.

Photos: Roj Whitelock


Elsewhere in the venue, there are small character moments on offer - early on in the show we witness a very much still-alive Caroline helping soon-to-be daughter-in-law Elizabeth (Niamh Handley-Vaughan) prepare to be reunited with Victor after his extended absence. Alfonso Frankenstein (Harry Harding) delivers a heartwarming speech about his love and admiration for his family, and the pairing of William Frankenstein (Pierce Mackenzie) and Henry Clerval (Michael McGarry) had a moment involving a plate of grapes that got good laughs from our audience.


Production still for Frankenstein: An Immersive Show

Photo: Midnight Circle Productions


As with most immersive theatre, you're free to follow the actors as they split off into separate rooms around the venue. Often you've got to quickly decide who to follow as the cast transitions from one space to another, and in an intimate setting like The Crypt - which is made up of five rooms of various size, you unfortunately have to take your proximity to the nearest doorway into account. There was more than one occasion where we simply couldn't get into the space a scene was taking place in as we were last out the previous room, so had to settle for exploring elsewhere.


The largest of the venue's rooms - which is the setting for all of the show's key scenes, just about held all 25 or so visitors, along with the cast. The show is designed in a way that means you can't miss these scenes, but even then we found ourselves very aware that we were potentially blocking either someone else's view or stood in front of a door that might open any second.


Production still for Frankenstein: An Immersive Show

Photo: Midnight Circle Productions


If you're looking for an immersive experience in London this October, Frankenstein: An Immersive Show is a great choice - with a strong cast and interesting creative choices that reframes the original book, it's an experience that offers something different to the norm. We'll no doubt be hearing more from Midnight Circle Production in the near future as they no doubt still have plenty of classic novels left to adapt - regardless of what it may be, we'll be eagerly awaiting our next visit to the The Crypt.


★★★½

 

Frankenstein: An Immersive Show runs until Saturday 14th October. Tickets are priced at £27.80 and can be booked via eventbrite. Find out more about Midnight Circle Productions via their Instagram.



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