The Flanagan Collective have created the story of Frankenstein and the life of Mary Shelley into a journey around the city of York.
By Jane Howkins.
The Flanagan Collective have been putting on a promenade version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which we managed to catch last week. For those not in the know, a promenade is a walking production with this one being performed across York, mostly moving around the area around the Minster and York Theatre Royal. The Flanagan Collective have been around since 2011 and have performed a number of productions since including Fable and The Tempest, which they received wide praise for. Their version of Frankenstein was no different, enthralling the audience over the hour and a half that actresses Veronica Hare and Holly Beasley-Garrigan performed.
Beasley-Garrigan took on the roles of Frankenstein’s monster and Percy Shelley, with Hare performing as Victor Frankenstein and Mary Shelley herself. Whilst obviously portraying the Frankenstein tale, the play also delved into the back story of how Shelley wrote the novel, with parallels being drawn between her marriage and the subject of the book. This made the production extremely interesting, providing an insight into the novel and Shelley’s background that most performances of Frankenstein don’t usually show. When watching, it felt like the crowd was learning as well as being entertained, with the content of the show leading members of the audience to ask each other historical questions about the time period and the Romantic poets in general.
The performers used the external environment around them to great effect, with the Minster and the courtyard outside the Grey’s Court Hotel acting as huge props. They also interacted with the audience well, although a bit more interaction wouldn’t have gone amiss. Halfway through the performance, a stop was made at the aforementioned Grey’s Court Hotel for a drink break, which was a welcome stop due to the cold weather outside. Afterwards, the troupe marched back round to the Minster where the performance was wrapped up, with one more surprise to come. Small parcels were handed out to each person in the audience, containing a copy of Frankenstein itself, which was a nice touch and one that was particularly heart-warming.
For the most part, the Flanagan Collective’s original version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was great, and it was nice to see it performed in such a different way. However, there were two minor quibbles. Firstly, it was a little too cold outside for such a performance, and whilst the Flanagan Collective obviously couldn’t do much about the weather, it might have been a good idea to have put the play on earlier in the year. Secondly, it did get a little confusing at times as to what was going on due to the swapping about between the story in the book and the true story of the Shelley’s marriage. Generally though, a very interesting production that combined modern themes with a classic book.