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Interview: Andrew Quick talks ‘Frankenstein’

22nd January 2024 by Lauren Randall

And we’re off!

Frankenstein rehearsals got underway last week at Leeds Playhouse, home of our co-producers and the production’s opening performances. It feels incredible to get all of the team together and begin the process of pulling all the pieces into place ahead of our spring tour.

Just before we stepped into the rehearsal room, Andrew Quick, imitating the dog Co-Artistic Director and Frankenstein co-adaptor, spoke with Duncan Clarke about the production and what audiences can expect.

After collaborating on Night of the Living Dead™ – Remix and Dracula: The Untold Story with Leeds
Playhouse, you’re now tackling Frankenstein. What is it about dark Gothic tales that appeals to you
and imitating the dog?

I suppose we’ve always been interested in gothic themes – ghosts, parallel worlds, people trapped in
a kind of purgatory, that sort of thing. The Gothic is theatrical by its very nature, and you can attach
some big themes to the genre. And it plays around with visuals and sound, quite theatrically and
cinematically, which creates that space to draw inspiration and influence from. We also collectively
watch a lot of horror films. It’s in our blood, so to speak.

So why Frankenstein and why now?

Perhaps a little bit of what you just mentioned. But mostly because it’s a novel that continues to
influence contemporary culture. You find references to it everywhere. It’s often claimed to be the
first science fiction novel, and one of the great things about the overall story is that you can attach
so many contemporary concerns and issues to it, which makes it ripe for adaption. It’s an amazing
novel in so many ways, written by a young woman at the beginning of her career. It’s not easy to
adapt in a literal way as it has these different narrative structures within it: stories within stories. But
it explores so many contemporaneous concerns: what it is to be human, the necessity of love to
survive, the follies of ambition, what happens when you play at being God, creating a consciousness
that is not human, and the very problem of human consciousness itself.

Our take looks at the personal elements of the story; what it is to be human and the whole question
of human consciousness. In many ways, our version is a love story or at least a story that explores
what it is to be loved and what it is to be rejected.

Do audiences need to have read the novel?

Even if they haven’t read it, I think most people have an idea of the story. I mean if you know the
novel or have seen the films then you bring that experience with you, but it’s not necessary to enjoy
the show. In our adaptation you’ve got the story of Frankenstein with the character of Victor
Frankenstein becoming obsessed with the problem of where life starts as he embarks on building a
human, a creature if you will, out of body parts. We tell this story and against a contemporary
narrative of a young couple who discover they are pregnant and are fearful of what it means to bring
life into the world. Both stories are about choice, connection and companionship. Two actors play all
the roles across both narratives, and we make a series of connections between the two stories.

Is it going to be a typical imitating the dog show in terms of the staging?

It will definitely have the look of an imitating the dog show. There’s a beautiful set designed by
Hayley Grindle with projection by Simon [Wainwright, co-Artistic Director of imitating the dog] and a
brilliant team but we’re not using live cameras in this piece. We want to focus on the intimacy that
we are exploring between our two performers and the two narrative threads. We also have a
movement/dance thread weaving together the parallel stories, created by exciting Belgian
choreographer Casper Dillen. This harks back to our first shows in the late 1990s where we often
used dance and movement in our work.

Frankenstein is often seen as a horror story, especially in terms of how the cinema has treated the
novel. How would you describe this version?

It’s a story of violence and revenge, both born from rejection. There’s murder and threat but it is not
explicit and there’s no actual gore. There’s threat in the couple’s story as well, but it is distant,
something they see from their sixth floor flat. One of the things we have been working on is the
presence of the ‘creature’ and what that is. It’s hard to get away from the stitched face and the bolts
through the neck, but you have to if you want to get at the heart of the novel and Mary Shelley’s
incredible writing. One of the most striking images in the novel, and a source of inspiration for me, is
a reference to the Arctic – the ice keeping the body parts from decomposing. This is something we’ve
used a lot in the piece, Shelley’s references to weather and the landscape. It is as if the whole world
in the novel is going through some major upheaval in terms of the climate. This feels so relevant to
us now.

What do you hope audiences take from your version of Frankenstein?

Firstly, I hope they are entertained. I mean that’s what you make theatre for – to captivate people,
to entrance them into a space, into a world that they normally would not experience. Frankenstein is
an extremely sad and tragic tale; one that’s moving and exhilarating at the same time. I hope we can
convey some of this. I think it’s also one of the most intimate pieces we have made. What’s
interesting about the novel is that it is constructed around a series of set piece confrontations
between two people, Walton and Victor Frankenstein, Victor and the creature and so forth. We have
tried to keep this sense of confrontation but allow them to be theatrical and personal.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Telling a story with two people is a challenge, but an exciting one. We have a great team that allows
us to weave so much around our two excellent performers. Great projection, a magical set, original
sound, superb lighting. I’m really looking forward to our Frankenstein making the stage come alive.

Photo by Ed Waring.

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