Manx LitFest – Re-telling of Frankenstein by Ben Haggarty and Sianed Jones
A couple of weeks ago now I attended a fantastic event – a re-telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Ben Haggarty and Sianed Jones.
About the Book
We all know the story. Frankenstein, in his fascination for creating “perfect life” through his love of science, accidentally creates a monster. Horrified, he shuns the monster which flees and goes into hiding.
Frankenstein’s monster gradually evolves from a base-instinct creature to something more human by learning from them secretly. But humans don’t accept him; they reject him for his horrifying appearance. Therefore, his loneliness and rage for the contempt shown make him a bitter, twisted creature. Frankenstein comes to rue the day of the monster’s creation.
The event was held as part of the Manx LitFest in September. The first Manx LitFest took place in September 2012. So, this year was the seventh such festival.
In addition, as this year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, organisers approached Ben Haggarty for the event. Ben is the leader of the Crick Crack Club, a successful performance storytelling group in the UK. He has performed at the Manx LitFest in previous years and they appealed to him (not for the first time) to perform Frankenstein. This year, he agreed.
The Gaiety Theatre was the ideal location. Constructed at the end of the Victorian era and opened to the public in July 1900, it is an old theatre. Historically, it has undergone extensive restoration work to preserve the building as close to the original design as possible. As a result, the ornate Victorian architecture of the building itself truly set the tone before the performance even began.
Fun fact: The Gaiety Theatre is one of the few remaining theatres in the world to have a functioning Corsican Trap.
I also had the benefit of a central seat in the third row… and I confess I turned up quite early. So, I spent a while admiring the place whilst I waited. It’s not that I have never been before; I have never been on my own before. You notice quite a lot of things when there aren’t distractions to keep you from them!
Ben Haggarty (as the primary storyteller) and Sianed Jones (multi-instrumental and vocal accompaniment) performed Frankenstein very well. The musical pieces performed by Sianed are the perfect counterpart to Ben’s narration. At times the music helps to build the atmosphere and tension. In others, it serves to break up the narration and keeps the performance flowing. As a result, it added the right atmosphere to an already haunting tale.
The storytelling itself was excellent. Ben has a real talent for conducting himself on stage and consequently keeping the audience engaged. No word was left unpolished and no gesture unplanned. Consequently, he portrayed each of the characters clearly and perfectly. Naturally, Ben has to embody a number of roles at any given time and he switches between them effortlessly! The dialogue in which Frankenstein and the monster confront each other is intense and very well executed.
The fact that I rushed home and picked up the book straightaway is a testament to how much I enjoyed this performance. This was the first time that I attended an event like this… and I am glad I did!
I sincerely hope it isn’t the last.