Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein

Underbelly Bristo Square

Those architects of wonder Manual Cinema are back in the Burgh to project their very distinctive take on the modern Prometheus. And what can I say apart from it’s a joy to behold and is their best work to date!

Believe me I’m not remotely besmirching their previous output, but this time they have pushed the boundaries of what they can do, a bit like the titular antihero. Previously the team has created an experience that is not unlike an enhanced version of shadow puppetry, but even that’s putting it mildly. But this time we also have aspects of live filming and bunraku puppetry which also help to enhance this mix. But although there are many marvels to behold here, at its core is a very deep and beating heart.

This tale is so ingrained not just within culture but into society itself that it may seem difficult to invent a different take on this man and the monster he creates. But Manual Cinema are certainly up to it, not only that but they’ve reimagined it in a way that I’ve always dreamed of seeing before. I know a little of the history of its creator Mary Shelley, and although she’s very inventive she was kind of haunted from a tragedy as a young woman – the death of her infant, Clara.

And this is what’s being used as the framework with the current take on this tale. Many moons ago when I first read the book, I always felt that the creature was just like a lumbering child who didn’t really know any better. And it was more how people reacted to him and hurt him out of fear that would raise his rage. As a matter of fact although grotesque, the puppet version of the creature is actually quite cute. And its childlike joy in seeing something so innocent as a sheep for the first time is truly endearing. The show is taking a lot of influences from those grand early Universal pictures, but I wonder was there a bit taken from Kiwi Kingston’s presentation of the creature in one of those old Hammer films? His look is certainly more puppet like too, which did evoke these qualities of an innocent and it was probably my favourite take on this poor tragic creature – I mean it was until now!

As this for me is probably the finest interpretation of this tale that I’ve ever seen. Book your tickets now, as I can see this monstrous beauty becoming one of the highlights of this year’s Fringe.

Markus Helbig
Radio Summerhall