Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein
Underbelly Bristo Square
Jul 31 – Aug 26 (14.45)
The amazing Underbelly venue at Bristo Square has a very old history of its own, and is a tourist hotspot. And the amazing show it’s currently hosting, Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein, is also a hot spot for the Fringe – deservedly so. When I walked into the room, I was confronted with an epic set, packed with contraptions which created an air of anticipation as you wondered what part each would play in the forthcoming entertainment.
Everything came to life soon enough as the movie started to play on the central screen – black and white with just a hint of pre-technicolour tint. But this was not recorded video, this was live action, performed and filmed by the cast of five and projected on to the screen as it happened; accompanied by music from four musicians on cello, saxophone, and multiple other instruments that I didn’t even recognise. This was Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein story told in a totally new and unique way, patched together scene-by-scene while incorporating various poignant elements from the author’s own life.
The mechanics had the actors moving at great pace between their different roles, working with the equipment that was strewn across the stage and displaying an impressive range of skills and abilities, merging effects with action and shadow-silhouettes. The protagonists positioned themselves so perfectly, and the multiple lights, cameras and projectors were rigged so that everything ran seamlessly; almost like magic, scientific magic, as the multiple layers built up to display the Frankenstein story to us to its very limits. One of the most moving effects was the two representations of the creature itself. One was a terribly sewn together doll and the other an actress in full mask, a work of art in itself. The whole effect of this piece made it somehow so real that we took it as a kind of documentary instead of a fictional story. The agony of the creature grew with each new realisation and we were reminded of the beginning where Mary Shelly mourned the baby that she had lost. In encompassing all aspects of Shelly’s sad and familiar tale, I found this film to be one of the most beautiful masterpieces in the whole Frankenstein genre, and there have been many over the past century.
This work was striking, beautiful and loving. By showing us the mechanics behind making a movie, it only enhanced the magic and invited us in. Come along for an astonishing ride like no other.