Frankenstein 2018: Lightning strikes a good night out

From left to right: Ana (Played by Michaela O'Toole), Dr Frankenstein (Played by Quinlan Oliphant), Egor (Played by Shannon Hiebner) and Karloff (Played by Andrew Simpson) performing on stage. Photo credits: Keegan Frances/ Cue.

If you are a person to keep up with what goes on on South African stages, you are most probably familiar with the name Andrew Simpson (no relation to the family). Showcasing an extensive collection of shows from the last decade, Simpson and his production company have grown in reputation and execution, becoming a figurehead of local theatre and pantomime comedy. His body of work includes awesome titles like Lord of the Flings and Death of a Donut, and audiences have a choice of six different productions from Simpson’s company across the comedy and theatre platforms at this year’s NAF.

One of these, making it’s debut this year is Frankenstein 2018, is a humorous and contemporary re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s seminal Gothic novel. And before we go any further, I will stress that, like the majority of Simpson’s shows, Frankenstein 2018 is a fun night out.

Andrew Simpson has once again demonstrated his ability to underpin satirical ridiculousness to established narratives. He clearly seems to have fun making these types of shows, and the audience will too. Grab your friends and a drink (before the show, of course!), and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

With that said, let’s get serious. Like the monstrosity the good doctor created all those years ago, this show has many parts to it, both good and bad. The good commences with, as previously stated, the comedy. The comedy is crude and crass, but it is funny.

The monster and the bride, played by Simpson and Michaela O’Toole, spend three minutes trying to decipher and describe millennial slang, and it is hilarious. These two characters are great, with the two demonstrating genuine chemistry in the buildup of their onstage attraction.

Behind these two you have their progenitors, the ambitious Dr Frankenstein and the sassy Igor, played by Quinlan Oliphant and Shannon Hiebner. They spend the duration of the show gnawing at the curtains like they’re made of mozzarella. And while Oliphant can sometimes be a bit monotonous in his delivery, Hiebner seems to be having the time of her life on stage.

The good of the show is continued through an understanding of the source material. Shelley’s novel famously explores the themes of selfishness and cruelty, and those themes have remained in this interpretation. The production has very a good climax to it, open to either a depressing, sinister, or comedic response from the audience.

However, even with the comedy of Frankenstein 2018 intact and successful in being funny, the show does have a few weaknesses.

Writer Michaela O’Toole seems to be more comfortable when she’s firing off jokes, rather than the ambient dialogue that helps move the story along. There is a noteworthy moment when Dr Frankenstein goes full dramatic and spews preachings of damnation which is handled very well, but the rest of the writing is cliche’ and can be tough to sit through.

Another problem is the use of music intervals throughout the show. In the scene, we see the creation of the monster and the bride through some clever choreography and synchronization, but the others seem to be stalling for time between scenes, resulting in run time that feels stretched out. Points for the given for the chosen soundtrack, though.

All in all, Frankenstein 2018 is another appropriate offering from Andrew Simpson Productions. If you can forgive the problems, which I am sure most people could, there’s a fun show with some great jokes to be watched.

Catch Frankenstein 2018 at 18:00 at 18:00 on 6 July at Library Hall.

By Sam Spiller