NT’s ‘Frankenstein’

1 Nov

I hate, abhor rape scenes in theatre, film or art. For me they are powerful images that ignite uncontrollable anger within me. They recall the horrors of stories I have heard. People I have walked with. I wish to close my eyes and run when I am so encountered. Run with eyes close. Anywhere.

Last night, Halloween, Priscilla and I saw the rebroadcast of the National Theatre’s ‘Frankenstein.’ Directed by Danny Boyle, written from the monster’s point of view by Nick Dear, wonderfully acted by Miller and Cumberbatch in alternating roles of Creator and creation, I watched and stayed seated as rape occurs. I kept my eyes open.

I run and will continue to run from ‘Downtown Abbey.’ And from other gratuitous images of rape, Priscilla asked me at the end of ‘Frankenstein’-‘How is this rape-this scene- different?’ It differs because the writer, the director, the actors are quoting Simone Weil’s 24 page essay on the’ Iliad’ being a poem of force’ http://people.virginia.edu/~jdk3t/WeilTheIliad.pdf- with their work here. They may have never heard her, but their vision stems from her three sentences on the role of force in Homer’s ‘Iliad.’ Here they are:

‘The true hero, the true subject, the centre of the Iliad, is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relation to force, as swept away, blinded, by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to.’

Force changes all; Creator and creation; victim and abuser. All are swept away with the use of force. NT’s ‘Frankenstein’ speaks of this life destroying force.

The play starts with the creature being forcefully born. The creation is a physical form created by Dr. Frankenstein through stitching together parts of many dead bodies, and then is given life through Frankenstein’s manipulation of science. The creature has no name. When Frankenstein sees this physical creation crawling towards him in his bare orange sun lab, he leaves, never wanting to see it again.

From this point on, unlike the book, the play chooses to follow the creature rather than the Doctor. New-born and abandoned, unable to speak and barely able to walk, the creation is forced to make its own way. He struggles to find any kindness, any compassion in human society. What does he learn?  He learns anger, hate, lying and the power of force. Through his experiences with humanity he becomes a thing. A creation, a possible human, an Adam, made a thing.

Weil’s essay relates how in the ‘Iliad’s ‘no one controls force; it changes all. It should rarely, almost never be used. NT’s production of ‘Frankenstein’ underscores Weil’s point.  It opens with the image of a creation being born in an orange sun and it ends with an image of creation and creation walking away together, bonded by hate. They walk into the ice smoke of the northern wastes. They become things together. Creator is creation. Voids without meanings.  That is why I kept still, with eyes open: to see what I could become and to thank my God that He saved me from becoming a thing.


2 Responses to “NT’s ‘Frankenstein’”

  1. Priscilla Osewalt November 1, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Wow. this is a beautiful piece of writing. This is my Charlie. I love you

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