Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein, at Underbelly, Bristo Square is one of those Fringe performances that you look for as a reviewer every year, but rarely find – something different from anything else out there, something truly unique.
Manual Cinema are an innovative production and performance company from Chicago, and this version of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus, like other productions from this company, combines handmade shadow puppetry, stylish cinematic and lighting techniques plus innovative sound and live music to create a world entirely of their own unique vision.
In this story, elements from Mary Shelley’s own personal life are interwoven into the story of her most famous novel (she did write more), and this is appropriate as the debate on where personal and fictional stories inter-weave into one another is still a subject of much debate…who was Mary Shelley referring to in her novel?
Whatever the true story behind who has inspired what in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the one thing that grabs your attention as you walk into this venue is the sheer scale of the production on-stage, and some of the very ordinary but unusual items that are being used for percussion sounds. The second thing of note throughout this production is the huge amount of pre-production that must go into a work like this. Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein is a work of split second timing where every member of this ensemble needs to be in exactly the right place at the right time, whether that be live on screen, dealing with the shadow box effects or one of the musicians. When you take into account that on-screen actors are also doubling up on the background technical side of things too then you begin to understand the sheer level of concentration and professionalism that is required from every person involved in this production. What we see on-stage is of course only the visible elements of “Frankenstein” and you can only guess at the professional level of background work that this show requires.
Everything here, live and on-stage has that gothic steam-punk feel to it and, yes, there may be a few elements on-screen that are not perfect matches for the technology of the period, but in this world of fantasy, that simply does not matter, and it actually in some way adds to the surreal atmosphere here.
Maybe not noticed by everyone amidst the amazing and often enchanting on-screen graphics, but there is also some serious sound tech around the hall for this show, and this is obviously a big budget production to bring to The Fringe. That quality and attention to detail shows everywhere in Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein.
Manual Cinema's Frankenstein
Underbelly, Bristo Square
Jul 31 Aug 1-11, 13-26
1 hour 15 minutes
Country: United States
Group: Underbelly and Manual Cinema
Review by Tom King