‘The Men Who Made Frankenstein’ which appeared at The Old Red Lion Theatre as part of the London Horror Festival is a reimagining of the creation of Frankenstein’s monster by Second Self, an ensemble of emerging artists. Think ‘No Exit’ meets ‘Saw’ but instead of hell it’s purgatory and instead of the threat of death it’s the threat of being dismembered.
The play begins dramatically with one man slowly uncovering another and we learn quickly that they were both previously killed. They’re not in hell but it’s definitely not heaven. Why are they there and how do they get out? As time passes two women join them in their prison and they debate as to what they could do to be released. When the idea of a sacrifice arises they are pitted against each other to decide who adds the least to society and therefore deserves to be given up for the sake of the others.
Written and directed by Simon Christopher with the assistance of his cast, ‘The Men Who Made Frankenstein’ is a tight and moving piece about what it means to be human. It takes the audience member out of their comfort zone and places them in a dark room filled only with moral questions to be explored. Part Sartre part Nosferatu its haunting taste is one that stays in your mouth well after the show has finished.
Erin Wilson as Margaret gave a bold and rooted performance which balanced well with Katie Clement’s subtle and heartbreaking portrayal of Modesty. Calvin Crawley added so many layers to the character of Edward that although we were driven to see him as the villain we understood why he was forced to be so cruel. And Marcus Frewin-Ridley delivered a performance of such depth as his character Rupert (a martyr who barely spoke) that you could audibly hear the gasps of the audience when they were forced to watch him be indescribably hurt.
What Second Self have achieved with ‘The Men Who Made Frankenstein’ is a creation that exists in the world they made specifically for it; a play that questions how we value our lives and the lives of those around us, our responsibility to how we treat those values and a warning for what happens when we don’t.