Hollywood has taken Frankenstein and turned it into a horror story featuring an iconic green monster with bolts sticking out the sides of his neck. But Mary Shelley’s original novel, as choreographer Liam Scarlett emphasizes, is more of a love story than anything else.
Broadcast live from the Royal Opera House in London to cinemas in 26 countries around the world, this new three-act ballet was co-commissioned by the San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Ballet, and will be seen in San Francisco in February 2017. At only 30 years old, Scarlett has not long transitioned from the role of dancer to choreographer, and he is the youngest artist to have a full-length work commissioned for the Royal Ballet.
Set in 18th century Geneva, the story begins in Victor Frankenstein’s youth, where he is a curious child already interested in science. His family adopts Elizabeth, an orphan, and over the years she and Victor become very close. They eventually fall in love, and realize that they have loved each other all along. Federico Bonelli and Laura Morera were both perfectly suited to these roles and share many tender moments onstage during their pas de deux scenes.
The most impressive set piece of this production is the anatomy theatre at the University of Ingolstadt where Victor is studying. Full of strange animals and body parts in glass cylinders, the room is spooky to begin with, but when Victor begins to sew together a cadaver and bring it back to life, it’s chilling. This stunning set also featured pyrotechnics and lightning projections to add to the drama.
Suddenly, the Creature (Steven McRae) begins to move on the operating table, and he flees out of the room to close the first act. In act two, the Creature is a constant threat and thoughts of him torment Victor. The Creature seeks revenge and begins to wreak bloody havoc on the Frankenstein family. Through it all, McRae’s performance was spot-on, with the perfect inquisitive yet evil stare as he slinked through the woods and spied on the family. Victor, tormented with guilt, pushes Elizabeth away, and they share a tense pas de deux full of vulnerability and restrained passion.
A work of art in the making for three years, this is a massive achievement for Scarlett and the entire creative team including composer Lowell Liebermann and all of the designers. I am sure this will become a classic production in the Royal Ballet repertoire.
If you haven’t had the chance to see a ballet or play at the cinema, I highly recommend it. Not only is it much cheaper than being at the theatre, you are treated to behind-the-scenes extras, there is no dress code, and you can snack to your heart’s content. I look forward to the next season of ballets broadcast from the Royal Opera House.