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An imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse Co-Production

Inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel

Remember, that I am thy creature; l ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel…

A storm gathers outside as a couple pack up a room. Clothes and toys are carefully stored away in boxes and bags. Lightning flashes. Picking up a book, the woman reads aloud. It’s a story about ambition and playing God, and about what happens when we bring new life into the world. It’s also about rejection, horror and revenge. It’s the story of Frankenstein.

As the couple confront their own fears, they re-create a version of Frankenstein that erupts into life as everyday objects are transformed into glaciers, a ship at sea, a dissecting room, a house on fire…

The latest adaptation in a series of Gothic texts, imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse’s multimedia exploration of Mary Shelley’s classic novel is a psychological thriller which dares to ask the question – what is it to be human?

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Frankenstein ON TOUR

Our review on Frankenstein

Frankenstein - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 12th March 2024 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

So what do we know about Frankenstein?  Well, it kind of doesn’t matter because this is Imitating The Dogs interpretation, so be prepared to think outside of the box, draw parallels with today's world and have your mind blown by immersive and spectacular technology.  In this version of Frankenstein, inspired from Mary Shelley’s novel and in co-production with Leeds Playhouse, we meet a young couple who live in a bland flat, pondering their next stage in life.  To have a baby or not to have a baby?  It seems that, is the question.  The radio ear worms a broadcast of Frankenstein in the background as the couple ultimately decide the fate of their unborn child.  Yet both go through stages of self doubt and question bringing a new and innocent life into such a corrupt and dangerous world.  As their lives become more embroiled in arguments, indecisiveness, and a homeless stranger living outside, we can start to draw links between their story and that of Shelley’s Frankenstein.

This production is a two hander and so as the radio story is aired and consequently acted out, the couple listening to it take on multiple roles from Frankenstein too, further enhancing the similarities being hinted at between their modern day characters and those in Shelley’s story.  It takes a little getting used to as characters are switched around in the blink of an eye and so you can’t let your mind rest for a moment.  However, the undeniable skills of Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia are unapologetically brilliant.  The range of what they achieve is breathtaking and seemingly effortless for them.  This is physical theatre at its finest, and the way they contort, twist and manipulate themselves into entirely different beings is phenomenal.  The trust they have in each other is outstanding, for they stand on each other, walk around each others bodies like climbing frames, and freeze in precarious positions, where the only thing stopping them from injury is the other person.  They never leave the stage and not only have to master the physicality of their performance, but deliver a mixture of dialogue styles, and interact with the set and technology. 

Imitating The Dog are a celebrated and renowned company for their eclectic storytelling approach. Their ground-breaking work has cemented a reputation for making the impossible possible across the UK, Europe and the world.  Approaching every project with originality, they ensure stories continue to be told in refreshing and exciting ways.  Audiences are challenged to embrace different perspectives of known stories and incorporate technology in ways you will never have seen before.  ITD co-artistic directors Andrew Quick, Pete Brooks and Simon Wainwright have reimagined and created a unique adaptation of a beloved story.  Hayley Grindle has designed the bold set as well as the costumes, with Andrew Crofts as lighting designer and Davi Callanan as video associate and video system designer.   Shadows dance around the set in both pleasant and threatening manners, whilst the interaction between actors and technology is made all the more real as they touch a screen and it responds accordingly.  The whole experience has been staged to keep the audience in a state of high alert and is achieved through subtle and not so subtle methods.  This production breaks from ITD’s tradition of using live camera feeds as seen in the past, and whilst I came expecting that, I also kind of like that I didn’t get it.  No matter how innovative and exceptional the technology, if you already know what to expect then it loses its edge, so I like that this broke with its own tradition.  The level of technology on display is fascinating.  It can sometimes be overwhelming but perhaps that is a personal feeling.  As an audience member, you are pulled into a friction of unrest as your senses are assaulted and stimulated by the amount of technology.  It keeps you on high alert and forces you to keep your eyes and ears open at all times for you never know where something might appear.  ITD have certainly proven that art comes in all different form, as does storytelling, and they do not promote one over the other, but use them in collaboration.

Those wanting the horror or fear factor associated with Frankenstein will be deliciously treated to freakishly unexpected and twisted visuals, including growing foetuses, encapsulating snowstorms and suffocating ice.  Lights will disappear plunging you into darkness before coming back on to reveal things anew, and with clever trickery, you might even feel like you are being injected with bolts of electricity yourself!  Every day objects are reimagined into a ship stuck in a storm at sea, glaciers, or a burning house, whilst sound (James Hamilton) infiltrates every nook and cranny of the theatre.  It seems different speakers are used for different sound impacts throughout the space, for you feel and hear the background hum of electricity, or waves, or traffic outside a window, and its direction is separated from the music or radio playing on stage.  It surrounds you and is very clever.  The music itself, also by Hamilton, has moments of purity and utter beauty capable of evoking both tender and powerful emotions.  However, those expecting a pure retelling of Frankenstein may be disappointed for this is most definitely not that. 

Imitating The Dog have once again succeeded in blending the enormity of film with the live power of theatre.  The result won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly as the overall effect can become quite intense and dominating, but love it or loathe it, it is hard to deny that what they have achieved is unique, world class, and pushes boundaries of what theatre can be.  As mentioned, those expecting a traditional retelling of Frankenstein will be in for a shock, for this story shares its stage time with the story of our young couple and uses bold and innovative techniques.  This is sometimes blended so beautifully that the comparisons are utterly striking, but on the odd occasion, it seems a little fractured and confusing to follow.  Sometimes the actors are engaged in physical fights and it is not always clear if it is the young couple or Frankenstein and the monster who are fighting, or if indeed, it is both.  However, you could argue that this confusion adds to the unsettlement of the psychological thriller on offer, for once you start to question your own mind and feel overwhelmed by what is before you, then the games can truly begin.  And so, as we are forced to face the question, “What is it to be human?”  It is interesting to discover your own individual answer.  Imitating The Dog’s Frankenstein may you leave you unsure as to what you have just witnessed, and even unsure how you feel about it, but the one thing that is for sure is that it is a show you won’t forget.  It will play on your mind, creep into your psyche and perhaps make you appreciate the creature lurking inside all of us.



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