‘Frankenstein’, Creator

[Part two of two]
First Creature, now Creator.

It’s free to watch until 19:00 GMT 7th/8th May. I can’t stress this enough: see at least one of them.

2011. National Theatre.

As I said before, I personally preferred the Jonny Lee Miller Frankenstein and Benedict Cumberbatch Creature pairing overall, but aspects of their performance as both surpassed the other in particular moments. What made Miller so much more compelling as Frankenstein was simply in his detachment from everyone he cares for, and the turmoil it leaves him in. Essentially, he looks permanently troubled. With Cumberbatch, it was a little like why his rape scene as the Creature was more disturbing than Miller’s:

With Miller, his Creature only seemed to half know what he was doing; Cumberbatch’s did. He knew exactly what and, more importantly, why he raped and killed Elizabeth (Frankenstein’s wife to be). …With Miller, there is no dichotomy. He is simply a Creature whose ignorance overpowers any possibility of fathoming what he has done. All that he does know is that it is wrong, and running away is probably a good idea ‘Frankenstein’, Creature

Take that, flip it and apply it to their performances of the Creator (don’t worry, I’ll help). Cumberbatch’s Creator caved to his emotions/inner feels far too easily in comparison to Miller’s which, for me, made him the wrong kind of heartless. Miller, however, didn’t. Instead, he battled with them and overcame them.

Catherine Ashmore Photography.

Elizabeth is incredibly forgiving of Victor’s distant nature, but in this instance it seems too much. Victor has stated that he is leaving for Scotland for work (but really to create a female Creature), which means postponing the wedding, and has spent some minutes trying to convince Elizabeth that accompanying him on his journey would bore her. Eventually she retreats, and instead asks him for a child. Victor struggles to comprehend this concept, even after she states that humankind already knows how to create life, and takes his hand to her breast – Touch me, Victor.

This is where the actors’ approaches differ. Miller gives in for only a second, before walking away, almost as though his mind is telling him “later, we can do this later”. Cumberbatch, however, crumbles. It destroys the science-over-emotions-Frankenstein we all know of. The main problem I have with this is because when the rape scene occurs, this moment stops making sense.

Catherine Ashmore Photography.

Frankenstein and his band of merry men have been trying to make house and land safe on his wedding night, because he knows the Creature is out to destroy him. So, rather than actually stay with Elizabeth, or leave anyone with her, he and his merry men patrol the grounds. Guess who’s been in the bedroom the whole time? The Creature rapes Elizabeth, and Frankenstein walks in at its end, gun in hand. He collapses to the floor and does nothing. The Creature kills Elizabeth. “Now…I am a man”. When the Creature eventually departs, Victor runs to her body and outlines her body with a hovering hand.

When Miller approached this scene, it made sense that he did nothing. Until that point, he had shown little interest in communicating with anyone with any depth. Even when the Creature has killed his young brother, William, it was like his Creature all over again: all he knows is that it is wrong, and that feeling angry or upset about it is probably a good idea. In the case of Elizabeth, he has finally been trumped. He is paralysed and knows exactly why. Game, set and match by the Creature. Once he leaves, Victor can’t even bring himself to physically touch Elizabeth. It’s as though he realises he has forsaken all other opportunities she granted him for a later date, and even in her death he can’t grant what she desired: his touch.

So when Cumberbatch reached this point, that former crumbling has detrimental consequences in this scene. It completely changes the dynamics. He caves to her beforehand, so surely he would run to her aid? Kill the Creature? He would’ve been able to grant that final touch in her death. Instead, he crumbles once more like a broken man, and that is precisely what Frankenstein isn’t. He is a man of science and logic. OK, a little barmy because of it all, but he is not one to succumb to his feels.

‘Frankenstein’ at the National Theatre

3 thoughts on “‘Frankenstein’, Creator

  1. Hi, Thanks so much for this! I know little about this art, or even ‘Frankenstein’, so this mini, but in-depth observation on consistency regarding actions and emotions of the characters in this play was a great pleasure (sorry – I hardly have the vocabulary specific to this art to explain what I mean). I’m *trying* to say I very much enjoyed being taken quickly and deeply into the play. 😉


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