Shiver me Timbers! The UK National Theatre is awesome!

Ahoy there me mateys!  Matey Kim @ travelinginbooks was kind enough to let me know that “the UK’s National Theatre is presenting certain plays for free on YouTube through June to provide theatrical experiences while people are stuck at home during lock-downs. These plays are available for one week beginning each Thursday.”  Having been a professional stage manager and having seen some of this theatre’s work when I lived in London I absolutely HAVE to watch these.

While I sadly missed Twelfth Night (::sob::), the First Mate and I did watch their production of Frankenstein.  The cool thing about this show is that Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller play the two main characters and switch parts for some performances.  Both versions are available to stream.  We first watched the play with Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature and Johnny Lee Miller as Frankenstein.  I had never seen Cumberbatch perform and only know Miller from the 1995 Hackers movie.  I highly enjoyed this new adaptation by Nick Dear.

I thought overall that the production values both of the stage performance and the film were excellent.  As a lighting nerd, I LOVED the design by Bruno Poet and thought the bulb cloud was wonderful.  While I did enjoy how the play started from the creature’s point of view, I thought that the staging at the beginning of play was self-indulgent and didn’t love Danny Boyle’s directing choices.  The opening montage went on for too long and seriously, what the hell was the train for?  That said, once the Creature meets De Lacey (Karl Johnson) I was hooked.  I also thought Naomi Harris as Elizabeth was another highlight.

The story itself was modernized in such a fashion that Elizabeth, in particular, had several stellar scenes.  Despite having studied the novel and stage managed other versions of the play, the story felt new while maintaining the historical period feeling.  The psychology of the two main characters and their relationship was emphasized which served to highlight the underlying themes of the book.  Color me impressed.

After watching the play, the First Mate and I went back and watched some key scenes with Miller as the Creature.  It was fascinating to see the difference in the two performances.  Cumberbatch’s Creature seemed to be barely holding it together, always ready to flee at danger, and desperate for human touch and love.  The evil acts seemed to be made in desperation and driven by the pain of not being human enough.  He wanted to overcome his baser nature.  Miller seemed to be a wild predator with cunning and manipulation always ready to spring into violence.  The humanity is a facade.  He reveled in his baser nature.  In addition, Miller’s Frankenstein seemed driven by intellectual discovery despite knowing that it will destroy him.  Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein seemed cold, aloof, and concerned with the power of his discovery.  Both versions completely worked and watching both proved a) how great the actors were; and b) the versatility of the new stage adaption and of the novel itself.

I loved this and cannot wait for next week’s Anthony and Cleopatra.  Arrrr

x The Captain

15 thoughts on “Shiver me Timbers! The UK National Theatre is awesome!

  1. Oooh. This sounds awesome. Have you been keeping up week over week? (I guess this is only the second week now…) I should check these out. The Globe is also streaming performances and the Met Opera! I hope the world is taking advantage of seeing such world-class performances for FREE. They don’t know how lucky they got it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t (yet) watched the YouTube streams but I did see this production at my local cinema some years back (with Johnny Lee Miller as the creature), and enjoyed it then. I felt at the time that I’d missed out by not seeing both versions, so I’ll have to catch up!
    I think theatre streaming is a wonderful resource for those of us who can’t always afford London theatre prices and transport costs – sure, it’s not the same experience as being in the room, but (at the cinema) it’s still a collective viewing experience. The National Theatre have been filming and streaming productions for many years now, and so have expertise in this area which really helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well given that I am on the other side of the pond, the only way I can see UK productions is via the stream. And aye, I agree that the National Theatre is particularly good at capturing the essence of the performance on screen. Though if I could teleport, I think all I would do is watch live theatre everywhere. Especially all the Shakespeare.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

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