WHAT makes us human?

2018 being the bi-centenary year of the novel’s first publication would afford reason enough to revisit its core theme. However, the issue is also highly relevant today. This year, horrific wars, destruction, famine and mass migration have continued to expose man’s inhumanity to man. In a different but related sphere, debates on the ethics and role of Artificial Intelligence have intensified. Under the skillful direction of Kathryn Sudbury, Years 7 and 8 showed they had the ability to tackle this topic with much greater depth than the Hammer horror version I had been half dreading.

I need not have worried. This production was mature and sensitive, while keeping the show exciting with its sophisticated sound and lighting effects. The sixteen cast members showed a real team spirit and commendable modesty on the part of the principal players. The half dozen villagers moved and danced and shouted with full commitment, their hair and costumes a timeless and zany mix of periods. Other characters contributed confidently, fleshing out the plot and providing cameos indicating much future dramatic potential.

Frankenstein himself (Rufus Froy) presented us with a tousle-haired, restless, animated scientist, alive with his passion for science and new discovery. From the outset we could see his brilliance, but also that by hiding himself away he was unwittingly setting himself up for the tragic outcome. He had lost sight of any awareness of consequence in his pursuit of his own goal, and was deaf to any advice he was given. Rufus’ command of a massive number of lines (seemingly none forgotten) was astonishing.

William Hutton’s Monster was always riveting. His understanding of character and text was evident in his intelligent, clear delivery. He was utterly convincing in his increasingly urgent requests for love and an emotional life. William’s range of emotion, from his pleas through to his terrifying fury, was maturely conveyed as a natural progression: his vengeful anger was tragic and inevitable. It was a masterly performance and, in every sense, he is ‘one to watch’.

Congratulations go to all the back-stage crew for a flawlessly smooth show with no breaks in its hour duration. Congratulations, too, to James Lane for a very clever set: the large Hayward Theatre space was made more intimate using moveable light panels in a semi-circle behind the players which not only added colours to enhance the action but also had a Greek amphitheatre effect of focusing attention on the tragedy being played out within its bowl. Props within this space were minimal but effective. Sound effects and music were timed to perfection. All in all, these young performers could not have had better support for their magnificent efforts.

What makes us human? Frankenstein left us in no doubt that for all our (necessary) scientific and technological advances, we lose track of ethics and our human need for love and compassion at our peril.

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