Liverpool Playhouse

Cover image for the article named 'Frankenstein'

Imitating The Dog are known for combining innovative digital media with traditional theatre to create exceptional works. Their production of Macbeth last year was one of our favourite stage productions of the year (you can read our review here), so when we saw that they were continuing their Gothic production theme with an interpretation of Frankenstein we knew that we had to go.

The production combines the classic Marry Shelley Frankenstein with that of a story of a nameless couple who are navigating an unplanned pregnancy. As they discuss what it means to be human, whether bringing a baby into the current world is the right thing to do, and create their own monsters through a lack of understanding those who are different, the storyline constantly switches to the text of Frankenstein which is cleverly introduced as a radio dramatisation. The struggles of Frankenstein, and the moral dilemma he faces in bringing life to his Creature, mirror that of the nameless couple.

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia.
Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia. - Image Credit: Ed Waring

The parallel narratives take place within a single room, that is often transformed with the use of digital media. When the nameless couple are simply in their room, the set is a stark, almost clinical, grey box reminiscent of a prison cell, 1950’s asylum or hospital ward all at the same time. With the use of Imitating The Dog’s trademark inventive digital choices, the set morphs into the deck of a ship, a laboratory, and a snowstorm for the Frankenstein elements of the play.

We enjoyed this show, however, the production we saw was not the fully realised version. Ahead of the opening night in Liverpool, Georgia-Mae Myers was injured and the show had to be cancelled. When we saw the show the following night, one of the Directors informed the audience that Myers was unable to perform following this injury. In her place, Morven Macbeth was taking on the role, but they had been forced to change the choreography, and given the short notice Macbeth was performing with script. We also noticed that Nedum Okonyia was performing with one of his ankles heavily strapped up.

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia.
Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia. - Image Credit: Ed Waring

This show is a two-hander, and whilst an injury to any member of a cast brings difficulties, in a two-hander that could have been a death sentence. The entire production team did a fantastic job of delivering the piece as close to the intended version as possible. Morven Macbeth was fabulous, and had an ability to hide the script in plain sight so that you couldn’t find it distracting, whilst Nedum Okonyia brought an intense energy to his acting which was not only a beautiful counterpart to the fluid movements of his choreographed pieces, but also helped in taking the focus away from the script. Given the short amount of time the team had they did an outstanding job, however, the story did feel like there was something missing. From production images, we know that intricate choreography between the two actors was a staple of the piece. All of that was missing, with Macbeth being stationary for the majority of the play.

By their own admission, Imitating The Dog are a company who take risks which inevitably means an almost Marmite effect to their productions - some will love them and some will absolutely hate them. The element we love most about Imitating The Dog is the combination of digital media with traditional theatre which was all still present. Their standard cameras on stage approach had been dropped in favour of imaginative lighting, voice alterations and projections of everything from snow to cell mutations and body parts, but this all worked just as successfully as their camera on stage approach. Okonyia was oustanding in his interactions with the digital media and strip lighting throughout. Between him and Maddy Whitby, the on tour lighting and video technician, every single cue was hit perfectly.

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia.
Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia. - Image Credit: Ed Waring

In many ways, rating the show at all based on the version we saw feels like an injustice. If we had seen the show performed with Georgia-Mae Myers we know we would have experienced a completely different production. Equally, the production we did see wasn’t bad and we enjoyed the Imitating The Dog standard blend of technology with human storytelling. Hopefully, Myers is able to rejoin the production and the final stops of the tour have the full performance. If she isn’t, the show is still enjoyable but just missing that little something to really spark and bring it to life.

Frankenstein is on at the Liverpool Playhouse until 20 April, with tickets available on their website starting at £11 per person. Full details of the tour can be found on the Imitating The Dog website.

Cover image by Imitating The Dog.

Originally posted: