Frankenstein (2011 play)

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Frankenstein Boyle Poster.png
Written by Nick Dear (adaptation)
Mary Shelley (novel)
Date premiered Royal National Theatre
Place premiered London, England
Original language English
Genre Drama

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 is 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 19 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 has been announced, beginning October 25, 2014.[5]


1818: A large bell, hanging over the stalls, is rung. The sound of a heartbeat. The Creature erupts and is ‘born’ into the world naked. He is confused and his movements erratic as he learns to try and move and talk. Victor Frankenstein is appalled by his creation. He commands the creature to stay away from him and throws a cloak over him. The Creature threatens him and Victor runs away.

The Creature makes his way through the streets of Ingolstadt, lost and confused. The great engine of industry thunders towards us. There are drunken townspeople singing. Gretel, a prostitute, is being assaulted in an alleyway and calls for help. Her client runs off, scared by the Creature. She thanks the Creature, but when she sees his face properly she too runs away and several of the townspeople pelt him with stones. The dawn rises and the Creature is amazed, first by the sunlight and by the rain that falls. He later finds Victor’s journal in the pocket of the cloak. Two beggars are sitting down to eat the rabbit they’ve caught, but are scared off by the sight of the Creature. He eats the food they leave and puts his hand in the fire, but realizes it hurts. Klaus and Gustav return in the morning and beat the Creature.

In a cottage, Felix guides his blind father De Lacey to sit down to eat the food prepared by Agatha, his wife. Felix and Agatha are going out to clear the fields. They leave him alone and he plays his guitar. The Creature is enchanted by the music and goes into the cottage. When De Lacey realises he’s there, he tells the Creature he can take anything he wants. He understands that perhaps his visitor cannot speak. But then the Creature speaks his first words – the “Bugger off!” he’s heard from the beggars – then repeating what De Lacey says. Agatha and Felix have to clear a field of stones before they can plough it but remain optimistic. The family are new to the country, after being driven out of their place in the city by soldiers. One morning, they are amazed to find that the field is clear of stones.

Back at the cottage, De Lacey is teaching the Creature to read and write. After several weeks, he is forming whole sentences, but is distracted by the falling snow. He has even learnt passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost. The Creature says that people hate him and he isn’t attractive like Agatha. De Lacey wants to introduce him to Felix and Agatha, but the Creature resists. Agatha and Felix find pheasants and already-gutted hares caught and left by the stove. They wonder who’s doing this for them. Felix thinks it’s ‘The Little People.” The Creature watches them, pleased.

Months later and soon it will be Spring. The Creature now talks in fully formed sentences and says he is solitary. De Lacey tells him he is a good man and someone will love him. The Creature asks what love is. He dreams that he has a female partner, created much like him.

The Creature learns from Victor’s journal that Victor is from Geneva and that he was trying to create a being like himself. Agatha and Felix return and the Creature is trapped. Although De Lacey hopes to introduce his friend to his son and daughter-in-law, promising they will accept him, they are terrified and drive the Creature out. Determined on revenge, he returns and sets light to the cottage. De Lacey, Agatha and Felix are consumed by the flames.

By a lake, Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor’s fiancée, is playing hide and seek with William Frankenstein, Victor’s brother, and her maids. They all leave William blindfolded while they go off to hide. The Creature appears and tells him not to turn around. He’s walked a long way to get there. He asks William to guess who he is and suggests they go and climb Mont Blanc. William says they can’t – his father would be angry. The Creature 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 Victor’s father, Monsieur Frankenstein, is out looking for William with Elizabeth and Clarice, her maid. Victor says they should divide into teams and look for him, but his father suggests he go home, noticing his agitated behaviour. Clarice tells them the villagers have seen a beast in the mountains. Elizabeth reminds Victor they’re getting married and she hasn’t seen him for weeks because he’s been in his room. A boat drifts towards them. William’s dead body is inside, accompanied by pages from Victor’s journal.

High in the Alps, Victor is searching for the Creature. When he sees him, Victor is astonished that his creation has strength and grace. The Creature says he had to kill William, otherwise Victor wouldn’t have come to find him. Victor tells the Creature he has come to kill him and he only created him to see if it was possible. The Creature wishes to be part of society and wants a female, built like him. If Victor disagrees he won’t rest until he desolates his heart. The Creature says he wants the possibility of love and if he can have a mate, he will leave Europe and cause no more destruction. Victor finally realises this could be an exciting challenge: he could try to make her “perfect”.

The Frankenstein house is in mourning for William. Victor’s father is shocked that Victor wants to travel to England so suddenly and asks him what he will do about his marriage to Elizabeth. Victor says it will have to be delayed. Elizabeth tries to find out about his work, but he evades her questions and offer to come with him. She wants children and urges him to kiss her.

In Orkney, Scotland, Ewan and Rab show Victor the croft where he will stay. Victor offers them more money if they will help him by digging up recently dead bodies and giving them to him to progress his "research”. He specifically wants a young woman, and will need a regular supply. Thinking his research will help cure diseases, they agree.

Months later, and the Female creature is complete but unanimated. He hastily covers her when Ewan arrives. Victor tells him he will be leaving the island soon. In a dream, Victor talks to an apparition of William and tells him about when he was young and wanted to find out why and how things exist where the actual spark of life comes from. The Creature bursts in and William disappears. Victor reveals the female creature to him. The Creature thinks she’s beautiful. Victor refuses to give her to him, not knowing what might happen when she steps outside. The Creature begs Victor to bring her to life because he loves her. Victor cannot believe he has a soul and is capable of love more than Victor. He tells the Creature he will complete her, but instead hacks her body with a cleaver, destroying her. M. Frankenstein arrives with Ewan and a constable. They can’t believe what they see but assume it is medical research. The Creature has disappeared, and Victor tells his father he must be married immediately and his journal destroyed.

After the wedding, Elizabeth prepares for bed and Victor enters the bedroom with a pistol. The servants are keeping guard on the house. Victor admits to Elizabeth he has created a man and brought him to life. She wonders why he couldn’t create new life the usual way. Victor says he will kill the Creature and come back to her. Elizabeth is left alone when the Creature suddenly appears. He tells her not to scream. He puts her hand on his heart, to show it beats just like hers. When he touches her, she tells him not to. He says he won’t hurt her and tries to appeal to her and explains how Victor abandoned him. She finds him quite extraordinary. He has learnt many things from man, including how to lie, and he rapes and ultimately murders Elizabeth, crying out “Now I am a man!” Victor can’t bring himself to shoot, and the Creature escapes. Victor tells them to take Elizabeth to his room – he can bring her back to life. Victor’s father tells him to stop. He gives orders that Victor is taken away.

In the Arctic Circle, the Creature tells us he laughed for joy at the heat of the sun when he was born, but now it is a waste of frost and snow. He has led Victor, frostbitten and exhausted, pulling a sled across the ice. The Creature says he didn’t ask to be created and the only person to show him pity was Elizabeth. Victor is weak and the Creature, thinking he has died, begs forgiveness for what he has done. He gives Victor seal meat and pours wine into his mouth to revive him, telling him he loves him. Victor wakes up and says how much chance of love he has thrown away. Victor insists that the Creature must be destroyed. The Creature implores him to carry on and destroy his creation. They go off across the ice together, with the Creature leading and Victor, dragging his sled, following into the fog.


  • Benedict Cumberbatch - Victor 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 Harris - Elizabeth 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

It is interesting to note that the actors playing the two main characters, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, both play the role of Sherlock Holmes in the two different TV series based on the novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock and Elementary, respectively.

Naomie Harris and Benedict Cumberbatch starred together in Small Island (TV film) in 2009 on BBC One as Hortense and Bernard.[6]


Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller shared both the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. The Critics' Circle Theatre Awards' Best Performance by an Actor in a Play was given to Cumberbatch.


Frankenstein: Music from the Play
Soundtrack album by Underworld
Released 17 March 2011
Genre Soundtrack
Length 60:30
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
The Independent 3/5 stars[7]
PopMatters 8/10 stars[8]

For music and sound design for the play, Boyle once again tapped frequent collaborators Underworld, who had previously worked on the film score for Boyle's Sunshine.[9] Underworld released the soundtrack for Frankenstein in both digital and CD form through their website on 17 March 2011.[10]

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


External links[edit]