Frankenstein (2011 play)

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Frankenstein Boyle Poster.png
Written byNick Dear (adaptation)
Mary Shelley (novel)
Date premieredRoyal National Theatre
Place premieredLondon, England
Original languageEnglish

Frankenstein is a stage adaptation by Nick Dear of the novel of the same name.

Its world premiere was at the Royal National Theatre on 5 February 2011, where it officially opened on 22 February. This production was directed by Danny Boyle[1] with a cast including Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, with the two lead actors alternating the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. Frankenstein ended its run on 2 May 2011.[2]

Live filming[edit]

On 17 March and 24 March 2011, the production was broadcast to cinemas around the world as a part of the National Theatre Live programme.[3]

The National Theatre's production of Frankenstein returned to cinema screens worldwide for a limited season in June, July and December 2012,[4] as well as for encore screenings in October and November 2013. A third encore screening was announced, beginning 25 October 2014.[5]

Another encore screening was made across the United States on October 22nd and 29th, 2018 in honor of the novel's 200th anniversary, so viewers could see both actors play both roles.[6]


Victor Frankenstein creates a creature from human corpses. Once the Creature is "born", which is how the play begins, Victor is appalled by his creation and flees in terror. The Creature wanders through the streets of Ingolstadt, lost and confused. Meanwhile, Gretel, a prostitute, is being assaulted in an alleyway and calls for help. The Creature frightens off her attacker, but Gretel recoils from her savior, and a mob of villagers chase the Creature away. The next morning, the Creature sees the dawn for the first time and finds Victor's journal. He is then attacked by two beggars when he tries to take their food.

The Creature hides in an old cottage which is inhabited by a married couple, Felix and Agatha, and Felix's elderly, blind father, De Lacey. The Creature comes to care for them and brings them food in secret. De Lacey finds and befriends the Creature and teaches him to speak, read and write. The Creature reads Victor's journal and learns about his creator. De Lacey also teaches the Creature about love, and the Creature dreams of having a female partner. One day, Felix and Agatha come home and find the Creature; much as the Creature had feared, they are repulsed by him and drive him out. Enraged, the Creature sets fire to the cottage, killing the entire family. He swears revenge on Victor for bringing him into a world that hates him.

By a lake, Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s fiancée, is playing hide and seek with William, Victor’s younger brother, and her maids. They all leave William blindfolded while they go off to hide. The Creature tries to befriend William, and tells him he is looking for a man called Frankenstein. William says that’s his surname and Victor is his brother. William sees the Creature’s face and tries to run, but the Creature catches him and carries him off. That night Victor and his father, Monsieur Frankenstein, find William's dead body, with pages from Victor's journal. Victor realizes that the Creature killed his brother, and resolves to destroy him.

Victor tracks the Creature to the Alps and confronts him. The Creature asks Victor to create a female mate for him, promising in return to leave humanity alone; the Creature also threatens to destroy Victor's life if he refuses. Left with little choice and intrigued by the challenge, Victor agrees. He moves to Scotland and, in a matter of months, creates a "bride" for the Creature. When the Creature comes to claim her, however, Victor refuses to give her to him, aghast at the possibility of their creating a race of monsters. He destroys the female and the Creature swears revenge.

On Victor's wedding night, he confesses to Elizabeth what he has done, and promises that he will put an end to the situation that night. He leaves the room intent on destroying the Creature, but the Creature appears in their bridal suite and rapes and murders Elizabeth. Victor discovers what the Creature has done but can’t bring himself to shoot him, and the Creature escapes. Victor attempts to bring Elizabeth back to life, but his father stops him.

Victor pursues the Creature to the Arctic Circle, where he collapses, frostbitten and exhausted. The Creature comes to see what has happened to Victor and, thinking he has died, begs his forgiveness. He gives Victor seal meat and pours wine into his mouth to revive him, and tells his creator he loves him. Victor insists in continuing his pursuit of the Creature, who drags Victor's sled with him into the fog.

Differences from the novel[edit]

  • The story is told from the Creature's perspective rather than from Victor's. Because of this, the audience witnesses events such as his relationship with De Lacey firsthand rather than in backstory.
  • The frame story involving Captain Robert Walton is dispensed with entirely, as well as much of Victor Frankenstein's backstory. The play opens directly with the Creature's "birth".
  • Elizabeth Lavenza is Victor's cousin rather than his adopted sister. (They are cousins in the original release of the novel but changed to adopted siblings in the 1831 rewrite. In the play, they remain cousins.)
  • The Creature doesn't leave for Geneva until a full year after his birth, rather than four months in the novel.
  • The character of Justine, William's nurse, is cut, and William's murder is never solved. The character of Henry Clerval is also cut.
  • Monsieur Frankenstein personally brings Victor home from Scotland, and Victor is never imprisoned due to the absence of Clerval from the story.
  • Monsieur Frankenstein doesn't die at the end of the play.
  • The Creature rapes Elizabeth before killing her in the play.

Thematic differences[edit]

While the original novel had distinctly Romantic sensibilities such as a reverence for nature, distrust of science, and the dangers of playing God, the change in point of view from Victor to the Creature has the effect of inverting many of these ideas. For instance, while Victor's fatal sin in the novel is creating the Creature in the first place, in the play his sin is failing to take care of and raise the Creature, instead casting him out into the wilderness. The damage he causes is depicted as the result of nurture, not nature; violence and revenge are the only way he knows how to respond to a world which has shown him nothing else.

Original cast[edit]

  • Benedict CumberbatchVictor Frankenstein/The Creature
  • Jonny Lee Miller – The Creature/Victor Frankenstein
  • Ella Smith – Gretel, a prostitute
  • John Killoran – Gustav, a beggar
  • Steven Elliott – Klaus, a beggar
  • Karl Johnson – De Lacey, a blind scholar
  • Daniel Millar – Felix, his son
  • Lizzie Winkler – Agatha, wife of Felix
  • Andreea Padurariu – The Female Creature
  • Haydon Downing/William Nye/Jared Richard – William Frankenstein, Victor's younger brother
  • George Harris – M Frankenstein, Victor's father
  • Naomie HarrisElizabeth Lavenza, Victor's fiancee
  • Daniel Ings – Servant 1
  • Martin Chamberlain – Servant 2
  • Ella Smith – Clarice, a maid
  • John Stahl – Ewan, a Scottish crofter
  • Mark Armstrong – Rab, his nephew
  • Josie Daxter – Ensemble


Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller shared both the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. Cumberbatch also won the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards' Best Performance by an Actor in a Play. The play also won the Olivier Award for Best Lighting for the filament light bulb installation designed by Bruno Poet.[7]


Frankenstein: Music from the Play
Soundtrack album by
Released17 March 2011
Professional ratings
Review scores
The Independent3/5 stars[8]
PopMatters8/10 stars[9]

Electronica duo Underworld provided the score for the play. They had previously worked on the score for Boyle's film Sunshine.[10] Underworld released the soundtrack for Frankenstein in both digital and CD form through their website on 17 March 2011.[11]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Overture" – 17:11
  2. "Incubator" – 1:47
  3. "Industrial Revolution" – 3:51
  4. "Dawn of Eden" – 3:28
  5. "Beggars Attack and Creature Alone" – 0:58
  6. "De Lacey Cottage Guitar" – 0:44
  7. "Not a King (Snow)" – 1:55
  8. "Faery Folk and Nightingale" – 2:28
  9. "Female Creature Dream" – 3:45
  10. "Creature Banished and Cottagers Burn" – 2:47
  11. "Hide and Seek, Body in a Boat" – 1:43
  12. "The Alps" – 1:43
  13. "Frankenstein House" – 0:42
  14. "Sea Shanty and Croft" – 4:07
  15. "Bride Creature.Walk" – 1:10
  16. "Bride Creature.Death" – 1:17
  17. "Wedding Song and Bedroom" – 2:34
  18. "Arctic Wastes" – 6:18
  19. "Come Scientist Destroy" – 2:08

Later productions[edit]

Following the National Theatre success, Nick Dear's Frankenstein has been staged in various theaters throughout the world, including the Sydney Opera House in 2013,[12] the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2016,[13] and even a French-Language production in Quebec City.[14] It has also been licensed for high school performance. In 2016 Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado became the first high school to perform the play.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Shenton, Mark. "Director Danny Boyle Returns with Frankenstein, Opening at London's National Theatre", 22 February 2011.
  2. ^ Frankenstein[permanent dead link]. National Theatre listings.
  3. ^ "Frankenstein". National Theatre Live. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Frankenstein Encore Screenings". National Theatre Live. Archived from the original on 19 March 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Frankenstein". National Theatre Live. Archived from the original on 8 July 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  6. ^ Brandes, Philip (19 October 2018). "Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller take on 'Frankenstein.' But who's the better monster?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Theatre Lighting | Factorylux for Frankenstein at the National". 24 March 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  8. ^ Gill, Andy (22 April 2011). "Album: Underworld, Frankenstein: Music from the Play (". The Independent. London.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Michaels, Sean (21 December 2010). "Underworld to score Danny Boyle's Frankenstein". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Frankenstein Music - OUT NOW!!". Archived from the original on 18 April 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  12. ^ "REVIEW: Frankenstein | The Playhouse, Sydney - Curtain Call". Curtain Call. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Denver Theatre - Frankenstein | DCPA". Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Frankenstein". (in French). Retrieved 18 March 2017.

External links[edit]