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Stratford Festival: A Unique Adaptation of Frankenstein

The playbill for Frankenstein Revived at the 2023 Stratford Festival.
The playbill for Frankenstein Revived, part of the 2023 Stratford Festival.

I recently spent a long weekend in Stratford, Ontario to attend a number of Gothic-themed events as part of the Stratford Festival. Each year the festival puts on a dozen or so performances, many from the classic theatre repertoire (from Shakespeare to the musical Chicago).

I went to see a performance of Frankenstein Revived and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I bought the tickets as the website simply read:

“This is a movement and sound-based piece that features no dialogue but offers a richly moving theatre experience through movement alone.”

But I will see or read anything that is Mary Shelley or Frankenstein adapted or even adjacent, so I clicked 'buy'. Put on at the Avon Theatre as part of the 2023 festival, I also enjoyed that this performance was part of a larger effort by Hannah Rittner, curator-in-residence for 2022-23, to bring more stories written by women to the stage. Rittner researched and selected 400-plus plays for a project titled The Feminist Expansion of the Western Canon "in which she seeks to transform Western theatrical canon so that it may include and celebrate the female gaze."

The verdict? I found Frankenstein Revived spectacular! The music, historical costumes, and set were totally immersive, and the casting was perfection: Victor was young and pompous, the creature both gruesome and sympathetic. And all throughout Mary Shelley moves the characters on stage as she ‘writes’ the story. The swish of her black dress and the flick of her feather pen were mesmerizing, I wish I had a photo to share!

If you’ve followed along for a while you know that I’ve personally and academically researched (and love!) Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. So, you might be wondering:

Was the performance true to Frankenstein the novel?

For an hour and 45 (with intermission) show they were quite true to Shelley’s original tale with only minor timeline changes—like dropping Victor’s illness, doing away with the Safie character—and placed an emphasis a glove instead of Victor’s journal the Creature takes from the lab.

However, they altered the ending that I think isn’t true to the theme of the desire for family in the novel and gives us plenty to debate, including Shelley's authorial intent. Still, a worthy “hideous progeny” of Shelley’s work.

The show runs until October 28, 2023.


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