by Melynda von Wayward
Reviewed on Sat, 29/03/2014 - 08:42am
Melynda von Wayward Total Reviews: 36
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Theatre Review by Leonard Miller

What: Frankenstein
Where: Malthouse Theatre
When: 21st March - 5th April
Produced by The Rabble
Created by Emma Valente & Kate Davis
Directed by Emma Valente
Set & Costume Design by Kate Davis
Light and Sound Design by Emma Valente
Cast: Emily Milledge, Dana Miltins, Jane Montgomery Griffiths, David Paterson and Mary Helen Sassman

Anyone familiar with the Rabbleā??s cutting edge theatre will not be surprised by the warning that accompanies this difficult but ultimately rewarding work. ā??Some audience members may find content confronting. Frankenstein contains nudity, graphic imagery (particularly related to pregnancy), sexual content, violence, adult themes, horror themes, coarse language, loud noises, strobe effects and smoke effects.ā? They arenā??t kidding. This is a show not for the faint hearted.

Always presenting strong visuals, this production by the Rabble does not disappoint. The virulent orange box in which the action takes place is segregated from the seating by a short glass wall, to keep the various liquids spilled during the performance, and from infecting the audience. The floor is liberally littered with black water bombs, filled and ready to burst, and a black wading pool sits to one side of the space. A hose hangs nearby and a strange black cocoon like structure hangs at the back of the space.

Based on the original text from Mary Shelley, the narrative closely resembles the original. However, Valente has intelligently drawn the difficult experiences of motherhood endured by the author, and which purportedly inspired the book, to the fore. To this end, she has cast Victor Von Frankenstein as a woman (Mary Helen Sassman) who is desperate for a child but is unwilling to relinquish even part of the procreative process. Her egomania leads her to create a child by herself and Valente uses this to explore the tribulations and frustrations of IVF experienced by many.

Valente doesnā??t stop there and uses this recast of the story to touch on post-natal depression, sibling jealousy and unwanted pregnancies. In developing these dialogues, she uses a range of highly effective theatrical devices that assault the audience and strips the dialogue to its minimum, making this a difficult show to stomach for some. On the night that I attended, five people walked out in the first fifteen minutes and Iā??m told this has been a regular occurrence. Those who do last the distance, however, are rewarded with an experience that leaves an uncomfortable but compelling series of questions that persist for days afterwards.

Of particular note, in a show filled with excellent performances and design, are the jarring and unnerving sound design which hit the right notes at the right times and the strong, delicate and nuanced interpretations by Sassman and Dana Miltins.

Not for the meek, this show attacks the audience and justifies it. The final speech delivered by Miltins makes the whole thing worthwhile.
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Publisher: Leonard Miller
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