Frankenstein Genskabt recreates that professor-monster couple that never ceases to be topical, never stops being relevant. The use and abuse of science by man, playing God, reincarnation, artificial intelligence, the craziness people are driven to by a passion. Mary Shelley left a lot to be reworked and reinterpreted and this time the Victorian institution gets one hell of a makeover by Det Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen.
Kasper Hoff’s script gives us the story of Frankenstein, the shy, laboratory scientist – played stunningly by the gorgeous and superb Anders W. Berthelsen – who finds himself with keen-bean country girl Elena, dead set on being his muse. Intense irritation and annoyance develop into love… but his wish to marrying his (gold-digging?) Eastern European geek is snatched away as she throws herself in front of a train. A pledge to bring her back to life escalates into him creating the monster – Nikolaj Kopernicus, who you would recognise him as the “monster” who raped and killed Nana Birk in the first series of Forbrydelsen/The Killing) – that evolves from an incontinent child that defecates on stage, to Nobel Prize winning scientist and husband to the beautiful Elena-lookalike Helene.
Fresh out of drama school, Danica Curcic is energetic, loveable and very, very funny as Elena, speaking Danish with a thick Russian accent. Spoken of with admiration and affection by her colleagues, a bright future is certainly ahead for this great talent. Alicia Vikander, you got competition, girl!
Det Kongelige Teater’s Skuespil venue – right on the flat harbour’s edge and within eyeshot of the Opera House, Amelienborg and Maersk – is beautiful and what the design team have done in creating a shifting and spectacular stage on by no small scale is exceptional. Flowing with the Russian idea, Frankenstein’s laboratory and colossal incubator from which his creation emanates, brings to mind the Soviet Space Age and all its intimidating potential. The suicides of the depressed postman, Elena and then Frankenstein himself are staged vividly and daringly. When I asked Rasmus Hammerich – who took the roles of the postman and the doctor – how it felt to jump off the bridge, he replies “fucking terrifying!”
The comraderie and good spirits between the actors after the play is fantastic. The cast are smiling, their post-show high infectious. As Lars Brygmann – a staple of Denmark’s film and TV landscape for decades already – pops his head in to say goodbye to his fellow cast members as they unwind with beer and cigarettes, they all comment on what a superb show it was and have a laugh over Brygmann’s impromptu swapping of “Frankenstein” for “Rammstein” early on in the show. A fitting reference given the play’s gory elements, rock music and that ugly-sexy charisma and stage presence Johan Olsen happens to share with Rammstein’s own leading man, Till Lindemann.
It seems fitting that our singing narrator here is also a protein scientist. As well as lead singer of the band Magtens Korridorer, this is also Olsen’s first time on stage – in a play. Referring to himself as an “amateur”, he describes how director Heinrich Christiansen allowed him the freedom to adapt the narrator’s character to his own persona. And it works! Amateur is the last word that comes to mind when watching the rock singer owning that stage – aided by the brilliant band, in which the lovely, friendly Kenneth Thordal plays guitar – and singing us through scenes with an operatic power and passion that matches Thordal’s lyrics and music to perfection.
Were the other actors allowed the same freedom, I ask? Apparently not. Although the process of how each actor arrived at interpretations for their given characters was something of great fascination for the signer.
This production is popping with talent. Actors, musicians, writers, directors; set, lighting and costume designers – it doesn’t get much better than a red velvet suit with deep orange shirt worn by the narrator in the second half!
Frankenstein Genskabt might have just reinvented this usually musical-sceptical girl’s expectations of what musicals can be. They say that Danish television and film is fast eclipsing the stuff we Brits produce. If there continues such excellent work as Frankenstein Genskabt from Denmark’s shores, the same will definitely be true for theatre.
Book your flights and tickets now. You have until April 4th.