The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch

17/06/2016 - 02/07/2016

Production Details

“When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me. Was I, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?” ― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Free Theatre invites you to be part of one of the most exciting breakthroughs of modern times. Scientist and artist Dr Victor Frankenstein is on the brink of creating the perfect human being. With your generous support, we can take this final step and create a new Adam. Come and hear the Doctor talk about his remarkable discoveries and see the extraordinary prototypes that have led to this exciting possibility.

Directed by Peter Falkenberg and with a set designed by Stuart Lloyd-Harris, Frankenstein is a production that will provide a feast for the senses. Music, dance, film, magic and puppetry all play a part in this engaging multimedia performance which will envelop its audiences in a magical, mystical, mythical dream machine.

Frankenstein follows the success of the immensely popular Ubu Nights and ongoing projects The Mauricio Kagel Project (presented at last year’s Christchurch Arts Festival), Kafka’s Amerika and I Sing the Body Electric and is performed in Christchurch’s contemporary performance space, The Gym in the restored Arts Centre. A series of public workshops as part of the Free Theatre Education Programme will also take place around the performance season of Frankenstein (please see the Free Theatre website for more info: ).

Frankenstein Performance Information:
Location: The Gym, The Arts Centre, Worcester Boulevard.
Friday 17 June – Saturday 2 July 2016
8.00pm (no shows Mondays)
Tickets: Waged $45. Concession $25. Group discounts available.
Online Bookings Essential: http:// 

Critical response to Kafka’s Amerika:

“The extraordinary creative drive of this company with things to say, and now an appropriate space in which to say them, could not have come at a better time as the Arts Centre of Christchurch is restored to the city.” Lin Clark, Theatreview

“A strange, unique and enjoyable production” Charlie Gates, The Press

Critical response to I Sing the Body Electric:
“…a rare visitation of exceptional theatre”
 Lin Clark, Theatreview
“…you’ll be gutted you missed out”
 Erin Harrington, Canta
“Mindblowing, disturbing and enigmatic. A must see”
 Georgina Stylianou, The Press
“…theatre for all the senses. Outstanding”
 Chris Moore, The Press – Best of 2012

Audience response from Frankenstein Ubu Night a work-in-progress for the major production in November 2015:
“Another stupendous night at #freetheatrechch” Sarah Aspinwall (Canterbury Cheesemongers)
“SUPER, continuez ……” Fabienne Jardin, facebook
“Awesome night” Bruce Burnett, facebook 

Antonin Artaud, William Blake, William S. Burroughs, Nick Cave, Tristan Corbière, Gilles Deleuze, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Diamanda Galás, Félix Guattari, Stephen Hawking, Julien Offray de La Mettrie, John Milton, Friedrich Nietzsche, Orlan, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Stelarc, The Bible, traditional waiata and haka, Nicola Twilley and Walt Whitman. 

Dr Frankenstein - George Parker
Igor - Andrew Clarke
Tiki - Aaron Hapuku
Bearded Lady - Greta Bond
Bride/Pandora - Emma Johnston
False Maria - Marian McCurdy

The Fly - Micaël Doljnikoff
Ariel - Jenny Ritchie
Echoes - Rory Dalley
Oceanides - Reuben Derrick
Prometheus - Stuart McKay

Director - Peter Falkenberg
Set and Lighting - Stuart Lloyd-Harris
Costumes/Puppets - Free Theatre Ensemble
Producers - George Parker, Marian McCurdy

Front of House - Mike Berry and volunteers
Ubu’s Bar - T’Nealle Joie, Gijs Ochsendorf, Tom Aspinwall

Theatre , Multi-discipline ,

Intriguing pageant of ideas and theatrical wizardry

Review by Lindsay Clark 19th Jun 2016

Mary Shelley’s nightmare of 16 June 1816 spawned more than a Gothic classic about the well intentioned doctor and his troubled nameless humanoid. The story itself, of course, was predated by many a tale. It has the deep fascination of fable and metaphor, never more so than in our own age where the creation and shaping of life already turn yesterday’s fiction into today’s fact. 

It is a given that Free Theatre’s treatment of the story will be startling in the best sense. This production from Peter Falkenberg’s experimental theatre company is to be the last in the current venue and whereas the creative drive of this outfit will see it flourish anywhere, the lofty space of The Gym works particularly well for sets and lighting such as Stuart Lloyd-Harris has provided this time for a sixth generation Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory. It is a replica of his Antarctic workspace, safe and isolated from contemporary goings on.

We step into a misty world of crystalline white that crunches underfoot with a cascade of the same material falling on a circle of semi prostrate figures producing something between a chant and a hum. On a high ledge is a pale, roped, giant figure who turns out to be Prometheus. He also seems to be the source of sound, creating a sense of impending action and underscoring its meaning. 

All this is at once engaging and puzzling, a circumstance which makes the comfortably ordinary appearance of George Parker as the good doctor himself all the more significant. Now we are cheerfully informed of the fund raising function of the occasion, including a tongue in cheek explanation of the how and why that have led this descendant of the original ‘visionary’ to ‘innovative’ Christchurch. Projected images and film illustrate his spiel and although this introduction to the real business seems a little drawn out, at about twenty minutes, it does settle us down and confirm that we are to witness the results of his ceaseless striving to create a better version of man, indeed to change the world for the better. 

Thus, called up one by one for our inspection, is a wondrously assorted bunch of prototypes, marking the development of Frankenstein’s work. The ultimate creation must be resilient and free of the problems arising from gender. Moreover song and dance rather than bookishness will be favoured. Science and art will blend in these bodies. 

All are effectively conceived and presented with enjoyable and convincing strangeness, many ‘hatching’ from suspended pods. But first in line is Igor, the earliest experiment, now, a general gofer. He is able to upload and spout literature and gives us a heady taste of Milton as a demo. Then it is the turn of the male-female Bearded Lady, creator of puppet babies on a platform, unfortunately angled for me to see clearly. Pandora with her fabled box is next, followed by a wonderfully aerobatic Ariel, magnificent Tiki, The Fly, hatched prematurely, Echoes, Oceanides and Prometheus himself. The spell of otherness is on us in a concentrated dose.

Particle physics and neuro science and an extensive range of textual references have their mention, but it is the hypnotic rhythm of a song of exhortation from Dr Frankenstein, hair down now, and dance from the assembled prototypes that seals the event. We are at a crossroads it seems, at the embryo stage ourselves.

Another intriguing pageant of ideas and theatrical wizardry, Dr Frankenstein’s latest efforts, under the mantle of Falkenberg’s Free Theatre, are destined, like those of his forbears, to fascinate the rest of us.


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Finely balances spectacle, performance and audience engagement

Review by Erin Harrington 18th Jun 2016

It’s fitting that Free Theatre’s Frankenstein opens 200 years almost to the day (or maybe to the day, if you want to be generous about time differences) that Mary Shelley, during an evening with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, experienced the horrendous waking dream that inspired her book Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus in 1816. 

This show uses her iconic source text as a springboard rather than a framework, and turns her nightmare into, perhaps, a vision for the future. Here, our modern day Dr Frankenstein (George Parker), with the help of a Prezi presentation and a clicker, runs us through the history of his much-maligned family, as well as the context and scope of his current work: the quest to create the perfect human.

It’s part TED talk and part sales pitch, and delivered in a charismatic and genial style that creates a connection with the audience that I haven’t always found to be as obviously present in some of the company’s past shows.   

The good doctor’s been at it a while, though, and he guides us through his work to date. Each of these creations are, in their own ways, ‘firsts’ of their kind. Amongst others we meet Frankenstein’s misshappen, Milton-spouting Igor; Pandora (lugging an empty ammunition box and rendered as a bride or first woman); Tiki, the first man in Māori mythology (not Frankenstein’s, but a found contribution from ‘our neck of the woods’); and Prometheus himself, bandaged and bound, hanging from the set like Mad Max: Fury Road’s guitar-playing Doof Warrior. We also witness the birth of a few of the creations that have been hanging from the ceiling in gestation, some of which aren’t quite what the doctor was anticipating.

Frankenstein combines rich spectacle, movement and puppetry, haka and waiata, song and dance, some terrific sound and music, and a good deal of impressive work on aerial silks, all bound together by a diverse range of textual snippets from Shakespeare through William S Burroughs and Stephen Hawking to Nick Cave. The Free Theatre ensemble, showcasing a range of technical expertise, develops a strong relationship with the audience and interact with us in a manner that is confronting without slipping into alienating. 

The magnificent set (Stuart Lloyd-Harris) sits us in the snow near the prow of a ship, alluding to the Arctic sea voyage setting that frames Shelley’s novel, and surrounds us with the flotsam of Arctic and Antarctic research stations. The show leverages the capabilities of The Gym at the Arts Centre to create a wholly coherent and rich sense of environment. 

A friend calls this show Falkenstein, for the director Peter Falkenberg, and I think that’s delightfully apt, for apart from anything else this show serves as a sort of tongue-in-cheek mission statement for Free Theatre. It opens with a shameless shake of the hat, highlighting the intense financial constraints independent companies such as this operate within, especially given the anaemic state of arts funding.

It discusses the human and intellectual contexts within which such creative processes take place. Then, in its search for the perfect human – or, perhaps, the state of perfect theatre – it works its way through a set of ‘creations’, and in doing so offers a genealogy, or family history perhaps, of the company’s work and ideas.  

Finally, it arrives at a point of dissolution, recreation, and rapture that highlights the work of Antonin Artaud, whose theoretical corpus is immensely important to the company’s overall project, alongside the expansion of his concept ‘the Body Without Organs’ by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

So far, so technical. If you’re into that side of things (which I certainly am) then that’s great. Nerd away! If not, don’t worry, because there’s more than enough to go around. In any case some of the more abstract and conceptual moments are softened with a degree of bathos and humour, and my companion is still snickering at a joke about egg yolks well after the show has finished. The group of people I attend with each find something different to get stuck in to and enjoy.

This is a really fun, wry and accessible show that finely balances spectacle, performance and audience engagement, and the show’s terrific opening image alone is worth attendance. I enjoy it more than any other Free Theatre production I’ve been to.


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