The very human story of Frankenstein

Just as the movie Twilight surprised the film industry, the success of Catalyst Theatre’s Frankenstein is surprising theatre watchers.

Both are a hit with teenagers.

“Teenagers really respond to stories of the outsider,” says Jonathan Christenson, the play’s writer, director and composer. “It’s that fear of being a social pariah.”

And Frankenstein’s monster is the ultimate social pariah as he was met by literature’s first mob of torch and pitchfork-wielding villagers.

It is interesting to note that the author, Mary Shelley, was 19 years old when she created this “new myth”, says Christenson. It is only natural that teenagers would respond to a story written by one of them — albeit from almost 200 years ago – about a character that is misunderstood and doomed.

In Edmonton, home to Catalyst Theatre, teenagers have responded in surprising numbers. Thirty-seven per cent of the audiences have been students.

“That’s an audience that theatre has trouble reaching,” says Christenson. “And yet we see them buying tickets to a show just as they would to a movie.”

To follow up on this new demographic, Catalyst Theatre has a Facebook page. People just need to type in the word “Frankenstein” and “Catalyst” and it will take them to a page that shows video excerpts, quizzes and discussions.

Fans of the horror genre—purists, if you will—will appreciate Catalyst’s production because it is more true to Mary Shelley’s story than to Hollywood’s attempt. It focuses more on Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s own descent to becoming the monster.

Indeed, Christenson says the play is more character-driven because it is a musical and songs do not generally advance the plot; instead they describe the character.

Being such a large story on such a small stage, it is helpful that there is a familiarity with the story, says Christenson.

Besides exploring such themes as “someone who is treated as a monster will act as a monster”, Frankenstein is a treat for the eyes and ears. The costumes are fantastical and the set is made of paper and fabric and is beautifully lit.

And, although it is not rock and roll, the sound is big.

“If you like to see the actors close up and see every bead of sweat and get splashed – actors are notorious for spitting when the are trying to heard in the back – then you will see a different show,” says Christensen.

“But being at the back is how the show was meant to be seen.

Since Frankenstein was produced for a 120-seat theatre, there will be lots of seats at the Yukon Arts Centre, which will offer appropriate viewing.

It shows Jan. 15 to 17. Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and Arts Underground.

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