The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

07/08/2021 - 04/09/2021

Production Details


In this Court Theatre interpretation of the classic novel, young scientist Victor Frankenstein brings to life a man-made creature, sewing together dead body parts with little thought to the consequences.

Abandoned by his maker and treated to the worst of humanity’s scorn, Creature becomes intent on finding Frankenstein and making him pay…

Originally written in 1818 by Mary Shelley and more recently adapted into the 2011 production by Nick Dear, the story of Frankenstein has been told in many ways throughout the years. None however, have quite matched the thrilling drama that is on offer at The Court Theatre this August and September.

“Forget any preconceptions you had about the story of Frankenstein and the monster with bolts in his neck. Instead, you’ll see an electrifying production which will leave you wondering who the real monster actually is.” says Frankenstein Director, Holly Chappell.

With lead actors James Kupa and Wesley Dowdell alternating between the roles of the scientist and his creation, this international hit explores the eternal themes of humanity, good vs evil and what happens when we blur the line between life and death.

“I can’t wait for people to experience this pinnacle masterpiece of the birth of science-fiction.” – says Kupa.

Show Partner Ara Institute of Canterbury are also looking forward to seeing Victor Frankenstein and his Creature to come to life from 7 August. Ara’s partnership with The Court Theatre is a multi-faceted collaboration which also sees 15 students from Ara’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) feature in the cast.

“It’s fantastic to see two Canterbury institutions come together in such a creative way. With the inclusion of these talented NASDA students in the show, it felt like the perfect fit for us.” says Darren Mitchell, Acting CE of Ara.

The creative collaborations don’t stop there as local Canterbury fashion designer Steven Junil Park brings his experience from the catwalk to the stage by coming onboard as the show’s costume designer. Park’s vision will showcase the power of clothing and costume to create the space between imagination and reality.

Frankenstein will be our biggest show of the year, and with Director Holly Chappell’s physical and visual storytelling, this promises to be a unique and unforgettable experience for Cantabrians.” says The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director, Dan Pengelly.

A hell of a production” The Times

The Court Theatre
7 August – 4 September 2021

Show Times
Monday & Thursday 6:30pm
● Tue/Wed/Fri/Sat 7:30pm
Forum (incl. Cast and Crew Q&A) 6:30pm Monday 9 August
Ticket Prices
Adult $56 – $62
Senior (65+) $50 – $56
Group (6+) $53
Friends of The Court $49 – $54
Community Services or KiwiAble Leisure cardholders $31
Children (under 18) $30 – 31
30 Below (aged 30 & under) $30
School Groups* $22
*Call Box Office to book
Bookings: phone 03 963 0870 or visit  

Victor Frankenstein / Creature:  James Kupa
Victor Frankenstein / Creature:  Wesley Dowdell
Elizabeth / Agatha:  Elisabeth Marschall
De Lacey / Monsieur Frankenstein:  Ross Gumbley
Victor (understudy) / Farmer’s son:  Tom Eason

William Kyle Aitken
William Tristan Valencia
Gustav Matthew Farnell
Klaus Nicole Wilson
Elizabeth/Agatha (understudy) Krystal O’Gorman
Ensemble Georgia Carnegie Clarice Abi McDonald
Female Creature Nadia Hill
Female Creature Asuka Kubo
Constable Xavier Paul
Ensemble Leo Munro
Ensemble Jayshri Ratnam
Rab Ben Jarrett
Gretel Katie Atkins

Director:  Holly Chappell
Movement Director:  Tom Eason
Set Designe: r Harold Moot
Costume Designer Steven Junil Park
Lighting Designer:  Sheena Baines
Sound Designer:  Matt Short
Stage Manager:  Jo Bunce 

Theatre , Physical ,

Detailed, well-paced, consistently engaging

Review by Tony Ryan 10th Aug 2021

Whatever images and concepts we may have assimilated from literature or popular culture about ‘Frankenstein’, especially without ever having properly read, heard, seen, or otherwise delved into any version of the story, let alone Mary Shelley’s original 1817 novel, it’s probably best to take Nick Dear’s play on its own terms rather than make comparisons with how closely it follows that original or, for that matter, any other version of the story.

One significant aspect of Dear’s play, however, is that the story is told from the Creature’s point-of-view rather than a back story as told in Shelley’s novel. Because of this we maintain considerable empathy with the otherwise nameless Creature, especially in Court Theatre’s staging and its portrayal and balance of the two principal characters.  The actors in this production, as in the original 2011 London staging, alternate each night.

Tonight we have James Kupa as Creature and Wesley Dowdell as Victor Frankenstein, and it’s almost impossible to imagine them in the reverse roles, although everything that my colleague Fiona Giles says about each in her Theatreview review of Saturday night’s opening performance seems to perfectly fit the role reversals that we witness tonight.  

Here then, clearly, are two versatile and profoundly talented actors, able to inhabit two vastly different characters with conviction and commitment, and an impressive ability to communicate those contrasting qualities across the footlights. James Kupa not only arouses our sympathy for Creature’s plight but, as the character progresses from a monster of animal instinct to a sophisticated human thinker and feeler, he succeeds in taking us with him in a truly remarkable display of characterisation and character development.

The character of Victor presents fewer opportunities for such progressive expansion, but Wesley Dowdell is equally convincing in the consistency of his portrayal of the obsessed and fanatical scientist.

The other cast members are also notably convincing in their supporting roles; I particularly enjoy the moments of humour from Elisabeth Marschall as Elizabeth, and also from the two young men (difficult to identify from the programme credits within such a fluidly changing cast) who play the local yokel assistants to Victor on a remote Scottish island. 

Court’s production begins with a long physical theatre sequence in which fifteen student actors from NASDA perform wonders of beautifully choregraphed and coordinated movement and imagery, directed by Tom Eason, as the Creature comes into being and emerges as the abused and inhuman monster that he is before his ‘education’ begins. This physical component is used throughout the performance and provides an ideal foil to the Socratic discussions and ethical debates that motivate the plot.

Occasionally I’m less than convinced by the telescoping of the passing of time as Creature accomplishes his transformation, perhaps a difficult concept to transfer from the expanse of a novel to the conciseness of the theatre.  Even so, our focus is always consistently engaged.

Harold Moot’s moody and versatile set provides a superb structure for the production’s physical elements, while costumes (Steven Junil Park) and lighting (Sheena Baines) provide the finishing touches to the excellent visual presentation.

Matt Short’s sound design can sometimes be slightly overbearing, but it creates the atmosphere extremely well within director Holly Chappell’s detailed and well-paced direction.


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Leaves you questioning just what is it that makes a man or a monster

Review by Fiona S Giles 08th Aug 2021

There is little in modern horror as iconic as Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein and his creation have lived many lives in the intervening 200 years since Mary Shelly’s book was published in 1818. Each reincarnation asks new questions and pulls at different threads of the story. In 2011 BAFTA award-winning writer Nick Deer took his turn at reinvention. 

The result is a compassionate take on the plight of the Creature that zeroes in on themes of scientific ethics, love, good and evil and the ego of man. By casting the two leads to alternate the roles of Victor and the Creature this retelling digs deep down into the relationship between creator and creation. 

In this Court production, ably directed by Holly Chappell, movement director Tom Eason has used the ensemble to full potential. Their tightly choreographed movements mark scene transitions, embody the elements and populate towns, removing the need for complex effects or cumbersome props; a choice that pairs perfectly with Harold Moot’s pared-back set and Sheena Baines-Alhawamdeh’s subtly atmospheric lighting design. The intimacy created out of the stark setting ensures the characters onstage are the sole focus. 

The final, crucial element threading the story together is the sound design from Matt Short. Chillingly atmospheric electronica thrums, overlaid by sound effects to evoke pastoral idyll, desolate mountaintops or gruesome experimentation as needed. I particularly enjoy the Creature’s euphoric discovery of nature, beautifully represented by birdsong and rain.

Act 1 focuses on the Creature, this retelling dispensing with the lead up to its creation. Wesley Dowdell as the Creature comes to life like an adult-size baby, in ten mesmerising minutes. Rejected by his horrified creator, beaten and brutalised by humanity, it lives alone, frightened and hungry. Soothed by the beautiful music of blind DeLacey he develops a friendship and begins an education with the cultured former professor. The Creature learns Milton and Plutarch alongside compassion and begins to question his existence.

Dowdell injects the Creature with pathos and a natural vulnerability that makes him mesmerising to watch. He perfectly embodies the Creatures desire for knowledge, to understand humanity and to become human. But humanity – too inconsistent, too cruel, too brutal – is no place for the Creature. Finding the journals of his creator, the Creature seeks out Victor.

Act 2 reintroduces Victor and sets him squarely as the foil to the Creature. In many ways his opposite – surrounded by family, love and comfort – and in other ways indistinguishable from his creation. James Kupa is excellent as Victor, the cold-hearted, maniacal genius. He fills the stage with his self-assuredness, his self-aggrandisement. This man of science is so wrapped up in a lust for greatness above the “little men with their little lives” that he cannot see, much less care about, the ethics or the consequences of his actions.

Gruesome, dark and at times unpalatable, the play is lifted by small moments of levity, such as with the two Scottish characters, which provide much-needed relief to this intense story.

By focussing on the relationship of Victor and the Creature, we lose much of the nuance of the other relationships in the story. A brief argument is all we see of his relationship with his father. But by lifting the story out of Victor’s head, Elizabeth emerges as a rounded character. Played wonderfully by Elisabeth Marschall, she points out (fruitlessly) to Victor the limitations of her place in society, his arrogance in rejecting creating life in “the usual way” and the damage he does by abandoning her. Elizabeth is the sole voice of reason against the Creature’s anger and brutality; against Victor’s obsession with usurping God.

But by virtue of focussing on the relationship of Victor and the Creature, the audience gains a deep insight into their parallels. Both are separated from society, the Creature by his terrifying appearance and Victor by his obsession with science and the secret of his terrible creation.  Both prove themselves monsters through their lack of kindness, their hatred of the other and their desire for vengeance. Kupa and Dowdell are at their best when on-stage together. 

The show illuminates the enduring relevance of the scientific and ethical questions raised by its author over 200 years ago. From its mesmerising opening to its chilling climax, this outstanding production will leave you questioning just what is it that makes a man or a monster?


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