Frankenstein at Craigdarroch Castle is flat and disappointing
Actor Jason Stevens recently performed in a solo production of the film Frankenstein At historic Craigdarroch Castle. Mary Shelley’s masterpiece was supposed to work perfectly as an October show set in a spooky old castle, but the finished product was a disappointment.
The castle was a particularly attractive aspect of the whole concept, so I was disappointed when we got to our seats to find that the performance would be in front of a natural-looking wall, with our backs to the rest of the castle. Since the building had no bathrooms, no elevator, and no water allowed for fear that someone would spill it, I hoped the location would be justified by integrating it more into the story.
I’ve gotten over these initial fears. The show began and Stevens came to the front of the stage. The stage and seats were on the same flat floor, so I was frustrated that the show started with the only performer sitting for several minutes. If you’re not in the front row, you won’t be able to see it at all.
What followed was practically a first-person book report Frankenstein. The performance was an emotional one-note affair, with Stevens telling the story’s events with steady, low-key pain. There were no pauses in his narrative, and every beat of the plot seemed to carry as much importance as any other. As a fan of Shelley’s work, this adaptation’s lack of focus on anything was tone-deaf to the themes of the story.
Most disappointing of all is that Stevens’ performance seemed impenetrable. Acting as an art form exists to show us the raw and bleeding heart of the performer, especially in a dramatic work like Frankenstein. Stevens felt distant and collected at all times. As the characters’ emotions became more intense, the line delivery got louder and faster, but ultimately lacked the vulnerability or honesty that could move the audience to sympathize.
I’m sorry to report that other elements of the play were similarly one note. Stevens could barely walk across the stage, so the space was underutilized; The only mainstay of the show was the letter he read at the beginning and end of the show. The entire lighting was the same lamp light with which we were greeted when we took our seats.
Generously, we can say that Stevens faced some limitations on props and lights due to the historic status of the venue – but even with potential limiting factors, the show was still lazy in execution.
Moments after delivering his final line, Stevens gave a quick bow and left the stage as quickly as I’ve seen anyone exit. The ending was very sudden, and it was confusing. In the end, with the pace he let go and the effort put into the show, I found myself wondering if this performance was something Stevens would have been happy to do.