Is Citizen Journalism treading on the toes of Professional Journalism?
Here are two extracts from recent theatre reviews of the same production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle. One is written by a Citizen Journalist, the other is written by a professional critic. Can you tell which is which?
Extract A. The weight of expectation on this production is immense chiefly because, on paper, it’s a combination of talent and ideas that feels simultaneously fresh and defiantly classic. In short, it seems to represent exactly what the National does so well and what it set out to achieve back in the 1970s. Sadly, like the Creature itself, Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein is somewhat inconsistent: prone to flashes of greatness, but ultimately a flawed masterpiece.
The sense of palpable disappointment is particularly heightened by that fact that, at the centre of the show is a towering performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. Whilst I was a fan of his recent work I did have Cumberbatch pegged as someone with little range beyond the proud, the haughty and the academic; I therefore relished the opportunity of seeing him play Frankenstein opposite Jonny Lee Miller’s rough and ready Creature. As it was the roles were reversed at last night’s preview and Cumberbatch proved just what a versatile, hypnotic stage actor he is.
This is not the triumph everyone expected but a muscular production that, I imagine, will be remembered for individual triumphs such as Cumberbatch and Miller’s performances, Underworld and Ed Clarke’s innovative sound design and Tildesely’s stunning set. Things will no doubt improve as the run continues but, as a whole, Frankenstein fails to reproduce the power of the text it adapts; much like Victor’s experiment, it feels like Boyle is only half in control of his creation.
Extract B. In Danny Boyle’s eagerly awaited production of Frankenstein the show’s stars are alternating the roles of the scientist and the deformed Creature in Mary Shelley’s great gothic tale, first published in 1818.
On Tuesday we saw Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature, cobbled together from dead body parts and conjured into life by the power of science, with Benedict Cumberbatch as his appalled creator, Victor Frankenstein. Last night the roles were reversed.
For those who have tickets — and if you haven’t you will have to queue for day seats or attend a performance due to be screened live in cinemas on March 17 and 24 — I can report that both versions are well worth seeing. Miller, however, strikes me as the more disturbing and poignant monster, while Cumberbatch undoubtedly has the edge as the scientist who is ultimately revealed to lack the humanity of the unhappy creature he has created.
The play doesn’t disappoint when it comes to gory horrors – the fate of Frankenstein’s bride is particularly grisly – while the final scene is as bleak as anything in Beckett.
The production may be intermittently hobbled by dud dialogue and second-rate supporting performances, but at its best there is no doubt that Frankenstein is the most viscerally exciting and visually stunning show in town.