National Theatre at Home, Global

01/05/2020 - 08/05/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details

A new play by Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley.

Childlike in his innocence but grotesque in form, Frankenstein’s bewildered creature is cast out into a hostile universe by his horror-struck maker. Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, the increasingly desperate and vengeful Creature determines to track down his creator and strike a terrifying deal.

Watch Danny Boyle’s monster hit Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor Frankenstein, streaming for free on YouTube and Available on demand:
from 7pm UK time on Thursday 30 April / 6am NZ time on Friday 1 May
until 7pm UK time on Thursday 7 May / 6am NZ time on Friday 8 May 2020.

See the cast swap roles with Jonny Lee Miller as the creature and Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein, streaming for free on YouTube and Available on demand:
from 7pm UK time on Friday 1 May / 6am NZ time on Saturday 2 May.
until 7pm UK time on Friday 8 May / 6am Saturday 9 May 2020.

Frankenstein was filmed live on-stage in 2011 by National Theatre Live. This recording has been edited for use on YouTube and is recommended for ages 12 and up.  It is subtitled and the running time is 2 hours.

We hope, as you enjoy this content and the weekly recorded performances, you’ll consider a donation to the National Theatre, or your local theatre. If you’d like to support us, you can donate here: or text NTATHOME 10 to 70085 to donate £10. We’ve launched National Theatre at Home to give you access to theatre online, worldwide.

Thank you to the amazing artists who have allowed us to share Frankenstein in this way, during this unprecedented time, when so many theatre fans can’t visit their local theatres. At the National Theatre in London, we make world-class theatre that is entertaining, challenging and inspiring. And we make it for everyone. National Theatre Live is National Theatre’s ground-breaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre to cinemas in the UK and internationally.

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Cast, in order of speaking: 
The Creature:  Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller
Victor Frankenstein:  Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller
Gretel:  Ella Smith
Gustav:  John Killoran
Klaus:  Steven Elliott
Agatha de Lacey:  Lizzie Winkler
De Lacey:  Karl Johnson
Felix de Lacey:  Daniel Millar
Elizabeth Lavenza:  Naomie Harris
William Frankenstein:  Jared Richard
M. Frankenstein:  George Harris
Clarice:  Ella Smith
Servants:  Martin Chamberlain, Daniel Ings Rab Mark Armstrong Ewan John Stahl
Female Creature:  Andreea Padurariu
Constable:  John Killoran
Ensemble:  Josie Daxter, William Nye

Production Team:
Director:  Danny Boyle
Set Designer:  Mark Tidesley
Costume Designer:  Suttirat Anne Larlarb
Lighting Designer:  Bruno Poet
Music & Sound Score:  Underworld
Director of Movement:  Toby Sedgwick
Fight Director:  Kate Waters
Music Associate:  Alex Baranowski
Sound Design:  Underworld, Ed Clarke

Broadcast Team:
Director for Screen:  Tim Van Someren
Technical Producer:  Christopher C Bretnall
Assistant Screen Director:  Laura Vallis
Lighting Directors:  Bernie Davis, Mike Le Fevre
Sound Supervisor:  Conrad Fletcher

Thank you to all the amazing artists who have allowed us to share Frankenstein in this way to support theatre fans who aren’t able to visit their local theatre.

Theatre ,

2 hrs

A gorgeous and powerful production, beautifully designed throughout

Review by Erin Harrington 03rd May 2020

Mary Shelley’s novella Frankenstein has been a near-endless wellspring of inspiration for artists and thinkers for just over 200 years. National Theatre’s smash hit production, directed by Danny Boyle, was recorded in 2011 then screened in cinemas, and is now available to watch at home online via YouTube. It’s a fundraiser, designed to support artists who have been screwed over by the effects of Covid-19, but it’s also just a drop in the great swell of arts and creativity that has washed into our homes while we sit in isolation, reminding us of the essential nature of the arts. 

Nick Dear’s high fidelity adaptation finds its heart not in Frankenstein’s blasphemous, Promethean attempt to usurp the role of God, but in the relationship between the creator and his creation. This dynamic is emphasised in the production’s key conceit: that A-list actors Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternate the roles of Frankenstein and the Creature in repertory. Both versions are available online.

I first watch Cumberbatch as the Creature, then scan through the show with Miller’s performance. It’s fascinating see each rendition draw different aspects out of the characters and their dynamics, to the extent that I’d certainly advocate watching both. This teases out the show’s full potential, while asking some rich questions about the relationships between actors and their characters, let alone the play’s broader themes. 

Unlike the source text, which starts (after a frame narrative) with Frankenstein’s first-person, monomaniacal narration, here we begin with creature, who is born, alone, from the grotesque membrane in a deserted lab. The immense, stunning galaxy of lamps and Edison bulbs suspended above the stage and audience flares, sending the terrified creature into spasms. It figures out how to breathe, move, and eventually hold himself upright, all without comfort or aid. It’s a powerfully intense scene, nearly ten minutes long, and excruciating in its flailing physicality.

Frankenstein finally arrives, is shocked by his creation’s vitality, shouts “You do as I say!” with futility, then runs off in fear. The template is set. The creature is cast out, left to fend for itself and to experience the world as new. Some characters, played with conviction and joy by the large cast, later debate whether we are born pure, or tainted by original sin. Here we see that the creature is a blank slate, ready to respond to, and learn from, whatever it encounters.  

Although it is exposed to some kindness by the people it meets, and is capable of learning ‘civility’ – how to speak, reason, and read the classics – it quickly learns its place in the world. Cruelty begets cruelty. We are asked, throughout the action, what obligations does a creator have towards their creation, given that no one asks to be born? To what extent is a creation a reflection of their creator, and vice versa?

This is a gorgeous and powerful production, beautifully designed throughout, from the set pieces, lighting and period costumes, to the Creature’s grotesque make up. It is easy to see why it has achieved such success and such cult status. The large circular stage, surrounded by highly raked seats, recalls the performative operating theatres of previous centuries; we are students watching an experiment.

The sparse, spacious set marks the isolation and exclusion of the creature. It has an impeccable sense of environment, shifting between urban spaces, homes, fields, laboratories, and – in my favourite transition – the mountains where the pair confront one another, and where the creature demands a mate.

I also love that the play embraces some of the droll humour of the original. The clean, white domestic spaces of the Frankenstein home are unsettlingly set at a canted angle. One of the great ironies is that Frankenstein, despite his obsession with creating life, is completely disinterested in, even repulsed by, his fiancée Elizabeth and her wish to have children the ‘proper’ way.

The production is bound together by a soundscape from electronic music group Underworld, which I admit I had listened to long before seeing the show. It snakes between joyous vocal work, the crunching industrial noise of Frankenstein’s organic experiments, and evocative, unsettling environmental portraiture. Its growing sense of foreboding comes to a climax in the production’s stunning final images, as we’re left to think about the relationship between creation and destruction.

Live recorded theatre is a funny thing, and I don’t deny that the National Theatre is really very good at translating their live shows to the screen. (Incidentally, there are also loads of other resources on YouTube and the theatre’s webpage, if you want to go on a full blown theatre nerd deep dive). Watching recorded theatre during lockdown has left me thinking about what film and theatre are good at, and the points at which they diverge or intersect.

One of the cameras offers a God’s eye view of the stage, and this is a net gain. It opens up some terrific imagery, especially as the creature is born, and later, when it stares up into the sky, feeling rain on its face. Moments of intensity, that focus on individual performances, especially in isolation, translate wonderfully to cinematic language. The camera’s capacity for intimacy reveals some things – the details of the creature’s sutures, the food he tries, or the grass he stuffs into his mouth – but moments of theatrical spectacle feel more distant, less immersive.

I am left wanting to have seen the original, which isn’t a bad thing, and I am thankful for such recordings and their reach, but I also crave a time when we can sit in a room together again. 

See Cumberbatch as Dr Frankenstein and Miller as the Creature here.
See Cumberbatch as the Creature and Miller as Dr Frankenstein here.


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