Theatre at the Cinema – Frankenstein at the QFT
June 22, 2012 Laura Caldwell 0 Comments
Recently Cinema has been in decline, so they say. So the cinemas are trying all manner of new ways to get us back into their darkened little rooms. 3D, digital projections, £3 Tuesdays (Or £3 Mondays at the QFT) better food, comfier seats the list goes on… The recent trend of showing live events in cinemas for me however, is the most intriguing and sustainable. I think this is a brilliant use of cinemas. They are, after all, Public auditoriums and should be used as such. The act of watching an event with fellow spectators always makes it better, grander and a lot more fun.
So this past Sunday as treat to my dad (it was father’s day after all) we took him to see a showing of the stage version of Frankenstein at the QFT.
The QFT (Queens Film Theatre) is a marvellous place to while away a couple of hours. Situated to beside Queens University, right in the hub of the Botanic area is the film theatre for the film department of Queens and a great place to catch indie films and cult classics. The recent refurbishment, the beer garden and the addition of the Jameson’s bar have all been greatly received. You can catch all the movies here that you don’t get in the multiplexes. We recently went to see Iron Sky here and as usual the cinema was full to the brim. Also be sure to have a cup of their coffee, which I highly recommend! On Mondays all films are £3 as well, so there are bargains to be had.
The play was originally performed in the National Theatre in London (this was a pre-recorded version). Directed by Danny Boyle (who rather topically is directing London’s opening ceremony for the Olympics 2012) and starring the UK and US versions of Sherlock Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Millar as Dr Frankenstein and ‘the monster’. Each night this play was performed, Cumberbatch and Millar switched roles, and the earlier showing at the QFT that day was the alternate version to the one we saw. We saw the version with Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and Millar as the Monster. Tickets for this show were £10 a pop – dear for a film, cheap for a play – and seeing as this nestled somewhere comfortably between the two, I thought this was a perfectly acceptable price. The screen was full; I saw 2 empty seats in the whole place. As we sat down on our really comfy seats with a cup of coffee we were first treated to a “DVD extra” in the format of some interviews with the stars, writer and director of the film as well as some footage of rehearsals. This was a nice touch and it really whet our appetite for the next 2 hours.
As the play starts off we see the size and grandeur of The National Theatre, the rotating stage and a pulsing skin tent. The monster is born and he writhes around the stage for about 10 minutes, trying to stand – he held the audience’s attention effortlessly. At this point I realised what a brilliant actor Benedict Cumberbatch truly is, (and throughout the night, this wasn’t the last time I thought this) with a lesser talent this would’ve been quite tiresome. One of the main differences with this stage play to other versions of Frankenstein I’ve seen is that the monster talks, this works brilliantly and makes the monster feel like more of a character – a man scorned by society – rather than a pawn for the action to unfold around. It made me realise that I’m not truly sure of the original story of Frankenstein as penned by Mary Shelley. This in part may be due to the various different re-enactments that we’ve seen on screen.
The rotating stage was used to great effect and to ensure smooth transitions between scenes, a massive lighting rig overhead (basically consisting of several hundred lightbulbs dangling from the ceiling) buzzed and faded in and out when the monster was being born, this also helped add atmosphere throughout the play. A few set pieces were welcome also, such as the huge train that came in along the train tracks in the floor, and the massive windows and rooms inside the grand house in Geneva. Jonny Lee Miller was also excellent as Doctor Frankenstein, a man torn between what science can do and what is perceived as “the right thing”. In the “DVD extra” we saw at the start, Millar and Cumberbatch both stated that as rehearsals and shows progressed they could feel certain parts of the character they played in the monster, manifesting themselves when they played Frankenstein. Watching this play it was easy to imagine the two reversing roles, as the central two characters they were very much in this together.
I really enjoyed this trip to the QFT and will be looking out for more live events at the cinema. Being part of a crowd, laughing and gasping at the same time definitely adds to and enhances the experience of watching a show. This is one experience I’d been keen to repeat!
QFT has a season of shows from The National Theatre coming up, including an adaptation of the amazing book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”