TO BE FRANK
30/09/2022 - 01/10/2022
28/02/2023 - 04/03/2023
Performer/Producer: Michael Hockey
Directors: Logan Cole, Sean Rivera
Live guitar soundtrack: Stenn Francis-Deare
Meet Frank, the freshly animated being. He is dying to meet you.
To Be Frank is a terrifyingly funny solo show about a monster being created and trying to discover why. There may be spooks, there may be goofs, there will definitely be blood-curdling screams. An epic tale taking inspiration from Mary Shelley’s original creation – but here, the ‘monstrosity’ finally gets to tell their own story.
“There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.” – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Toi Whakaari graduate Michael Hockey brings his debut solo performance to the stage in this eerie comedy that follows the journey of the creature ‘Frank’ from creation, to chaos to composure. All alongside an electrifying live guitar soundtrack provided by musician Stenn Francis-Deare. This modern reimagining, blending bouffon, clown and comedy strips away the trappings of literature to bring you the most human monster you’ve ever seen: a green guy who just wants to be loved.
This show is as thrilling and hilarious as it is achingly human. Hockey has been working on the show for some time, developing it as part of Barbarian Productions’ Ruckus and artist residency programmes, and drawing on his own training under the world’s most legendary clown, École Phillipe Gaulier, to bring horror’s most legendary creation to life in his funniest incarnation yet.
“This show playfully investigates what it is to be alive, what that feeling is and whether other people feel it too,” says Hockey. “Playing games from inside the body of this creation with a live audience is such a thrill. It’s electric. Don’t miss the funniest, scariest, thing you’ll see this Whangārei Fringe. Indulge the horror, indulge the inner clown, indulge the naive monster inside us all. Let Frank be frank. And To Be Frank is the proud recipient of the “Whangārei Fringe Tour Ready award”!
The Octagon Theatre, Whangarei.
30 Sept to 1st October 2022
Te Auaha – Tapere Iti, Level 1, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro
Tuesday 28 February – Saturday 4 March 2023
+ Saturday 4 March, 5pm
Dramaturg: Lucy Dawber
Musician/Designer: Stenn Francis-Deare
Marketing Design: Bailey Poching
Technical Manager: Tashi Hope
Created with the support of Barbarian Productions
Clown , Physical , Solo , Theatre ,
An immediately relatable yet surprisingly profound microcosm of the human condition
Review by John Smythe 01st Mar 2023
Minimalist clowning is an act of courage that is mesmerising when done well. Michael Hockey’s solo performance of To Be Frank, vibrantly accompanied by Stenn Francis-Deare’s live guitar soundtrack, is a fine example of the genre. The title itself is ingenious: does this potential person wish to emulate his ‘father’, is his major objective simply to express his truth or does he just want to be himself: Frank?
Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus has spawned countless stage and screen dramatisations and all sorts of spinoffs since it was published, anonymously, 200+ years ago, but this ‘Frankenstein’s monster-as-clown’ may be a first. On the other hand, the creature’s innocence and depth of feeling has always aligned it to classical clowning.
In Greek mythology Prometheus is credited with creating human beings out of clay (and the jury is still out on whether they have been good for planet Earth). Shelly’s Dr Victor Frankenstein created his creature-cum-monster out of human body parts and when it wouldn’t obey his every command – in a variation on God’s banishment of Lucifer, perhaps? – he cast it out.
This is where To Be Frank begins, with a spectacular fling-cum-flop into a collapsed heap, centre stage. Initially it looks like an awkwardly constructed effigy – a scarecrow or Guy Fawkes guy – until, almost imperceptibly, signs of life begin to twitch. What follows is the gradual discovery first of himself, then of us, then of feelings …
Hockey, his Directors Logan Cole and Sean Rivera, and Dramaturg Lucy Dawber have conspired to distil an essence of Shelly’s complex plot: the desire for love in a being who has yet to understand and gain control of his own physical strength. While the Genesis myth has the woman Adam desires fashioned from his spare rib, Frank regurgitates his vestigial partner and, after making some clumsy errors, literally breathes life into it and gives it a face.
The learning process traverses a full range of emotions. Hockey’s ability to convey inner feelings and thoughts non-verbally is exemplary but investing his inanimate companion(s) with expressions may be described as next-level mask skills. We come to care for them as much as for him. When the companions’ behaviours become independent of Frank, the question of what it will take for him to sustain a successful relationship resonates through every age of humanity.
Over 55 absorbing minutes, the incremental development of Hockey’s Frank as fully formed, physically co-ordinated and full of feeling is wondrous to behold. There are times when, in his face especially, it seems Tim Curry’s Frank-N-Furter could be a sibling and when he discovers a capacity for dance-like physicality, Mick Jagger could be another. It’s as if Tim and Mick had a love-child …
Then there is the realisation his guttural voice can soar to more melodic heights – yet another surprise in a show that’s full of them – not least in the extraordinary sounds Stenn Francis-Deare extracts from an electric guitar to support and enhance the action. To Be Frank is an immediately relatable yet surprisingly profound microcosm of the human condition.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
ABSURDLY FUNNY, EXCRUCIATINGLY HUMAN
Review by Lena Fransham 01st Oct 2022
As the lights go up, Frankenstein’s monster finds with a roar of alarm that he is alive. The monster, Frank, then proceeds to learn what this means in a series of agonising and ridiculous challenges: making his legs work, picking up a balloon, and discovering the audience watching him are all momentous events in his new existence. In the discovery of a balloon, he goes on to make his first friend, experiencing love and then tragedy. In his subsequent bumbling efforts to cope with his loss, he slowly learns the art of being alive.
Drawing on conventions of bouffon, clown and physical comedy, performer Michael Hockey tells Frank’s story in larger-than-life gestures and non-verbal vocalisations, portraying his character’s inarticulacy with a remarkable fluency of tones, half-syllables and expressions, and competently embodying Frank’s awkward and relatable difficulties with the experience of having a body.
The notably bare stage and minimal use of props underline, if anything, the sense of starting from nothing, the raw newness of Frank’s experience. His onstage struggles are quite brilliantly underscored by the offstage live guitar accompaniment (Stenn Francis-Deare), with the combination resulting in an eloquent interplay of sound and action that is one of the show’s greatest strengths.
The heart of the performance is Hockey’s connection with the audience. Frank’s childlike vulnerability as he alternately marvels at and mirrors the audience serves to establish an intimacy that swiftly dispenses with any sense of self-consciousness among audience members, whose periodic spontaneous interactions with him build further on the rapport. There are times when Hockey seems to almost slip out of character—I’m sure he’s struggling not to laugh—but with a highly permeable fourth wall and the audience fully engaged, these moments barely register.
While the show is quite a departure from its inspiration, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, there’s a surprising resonance between the two. With its empathy-driven, whimsical storytelling, Hockey’s performance manages to incorporate elements of the tragedy and pathos of Shelley’s novel into the adventures of an absurdly funny, excruciatingly human monster.
- Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer