Strong, striking and dramatic with some powerful performances, the Royal Ballet’s FRANKENSTEIN, choreographed by Liam Scarlett, looms massively onto the screen. It is the latest in the Palace Opera and Ballet season. A co-production between the Royal Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet, the work is closely based on the supernatural Gothic thriller by Mary Shelley – a story of scientific development and love, the piece also raises very important questions about life and creation .
Liam Scarlett’s choreography is challenging and athletic. There are some intricate interlocking ensemble sections ( eg the wedding waltzes) and the pas de deux include some very difficult lifts. Some of it is reminiscent of Macmillan’s and Ashton’s work.
There are swoops and swirls for the pas de deux for Victor and Elizabeth, a chilling pas de deux for the Creature and Elizabeth, and a spectacular, though a little drawn out, confrontation at the end for the Creature and Victor.
Lowell Leibermann’s specially commissioned score, as splendidly played by the Royal Opera House Orchestra under the baton of Koen Kessells, was thrilling. The music is at times swooping, sweeping and romantic, at other times spiky and tense, and far more contemporary. Waltzes are included and the production had a vaguely eighteenth -century feel to it.
The set designs by John Macfarlane were magnificent including a chilling, eeriely curved anatomy lab , an imposing Frankenstein manor and a dramatic curved staircase for the wedding celebrations in Act 3.
A lot of attention was devoted to the machinery and special effects for the (very rushed) creation of the Creature in Act 1 – very spectacular – and mists and fires are incorporated into other sections of the work.
Lighting by David Finn is superb, eerie and suspenseful with great use of shadows in certain segments as well as some wonderful sunsets and so on.
Victor Frankenstein was thrillingly portrayed by darkly handsome Federico Bonelli . We see his youthful exuberance and scientific curiousity regarding the spark of life and his faithful , burning love for Elizabeth. Yet Victor’s creation of the monster, when he theoretically denies all thought of religious or humanitarian principle, feels quite rushed. There’s no real sense of the chilling ghastliness or grisly grandeur of the event.
When the Creature becomes alive we see Victor’s instinctive horror and revulsion and later his despair at losing his parents , younger brother and wife. Technically Bonelli was more than splendid. The final confrontation with the Creature is dynamic and we see how Victor is haunted by the ghosts of memories of his younger self, and his feelings of guilt.
Elizabeth was delightfully danced by Laura Morera. Warm and elegant she danced superbly, with creamy epaulement and a refined, luxurious line. She is joyously enchanting in the swooping pas de deux with Victor and is terrifying and yet defiant in her encounter with the Creature towards the end. We know, and she knows, that the Creature will probably kill her.
The Creature , torn, scarred and ugly, a terrifying cadaver, was brilliantly danced by Steven McRae. He yearns to love and do good but we see his change to evil malevolence and seeking revenge. He is the classic outsider longing for acceptance. His solos in the last two acts are fabulously danced and the confrontation with his creator at the end of mutual dependence and horror is emotionally shattering. -McRae is needy and pleading entwining himself around Bonelli , demanding that they recognize their linked fate.
The ensemble of students , maids , wedding guests etc was excellent : the minor characters terrifically portrayed and developed :- the young William , Victor’s brother , charmingly danced by Guillem Cabrera Espinach, the poor unjustly accused Justine, played by Meaghan Grace Hinkis, and Henry Clerval , Victor’s best friend as wonderfully danced by Alexander Campbell.
Whilst a little formulaic at times, this was a very impressive production, breathtakingly danced.
Running time – allow 3 and ½ hours includes two intervals. The screening includes interviews and behind the scenes information before the show and during the intervals).