Frankenstein Special EditionBookmark and Share

Sunday, 30 August 2015 - Reviewed by Ben Breen
Frankenstein Special Edition (Credit: Big Finish)Written By: Mary Shelley,
dramatised by Jonathan Barnes
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Cast: Arthur Darvill (Victor Frankenstein), Nicholas Briggs (Waldman/The Creature), Geoffrey Beevers (Alphonse Frankenstein/DeLacey), Georgia Moffett (Elizabeth), Terry Molloy (Christensen/Proprietor), Alex Jordan (Captain Robert Walton), Geoffrey Breton (Henry Clerval/Felix), Lizzie Hopley (Giselle/Agatha/Lorna), Stephen Fewell (Krempe/Judge/Kirwin), Sarah Ovens (Justine/Female Creature)
The plot of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein is familiar to many.  The tale of the scientist who seeks to create life is one that has resonated through the centuries.  Therefore, I will not attempt to summarise the story, but instead deliver my impressions on the adaptation.

The drama is set out in 3 “volumes” and this, whilst surprising at first, mirrors the original novel's publication in 1818.  This structure suits the story well, separating it into manageable sections and allowing listeners to take a break, if necessary.  Moreover, it does seem to portray the fact that the author’s original intention was to have it be a short story, regardless of the fact that it was later expanded; it has the feeling of several stories woven together.  The pacing of the story is not marred by slow segments, as there is a constant sense of anticipation to see what will happen next even if you know the rest of the story.  The scenes and sequences flow well into each other, moving from the ship on which Victor tells his story to the various memories that come to him and serve as the main narrative device.

The musical score accompanying the cinematic sound design is well-suited, without being invasive.  By far the most prominent piece of score is the main theme, a slow haunting orchestral cue, possibly representing the creature’s slow and complicated construction or “birth” as well as Victor Frankenstein’s inexorable journey towards self-ruin.

The casting of Brigs as both Waldman and the creature is intriguing due to the way events occur.  His delivery change from the former to the latter makes for great dramatic effect, with every inflection bringing the pain and agony of the creature to bare on both the scientist who brought him into being and the listener. 

Arthur Darville’s Frankenstein is well chosen also, with the writing portraying him not as the classical mad scientist hungry for power, but more as a man who is overcome by ambition and the drive to succeed.  His interactions with the other characters, including the creature and the family’s servant are filled with emotion and his delivery, like Briggs and the rest of the cast, keeps the adaptation flowing towards what might be considered as an inevitable conclusion.

The ending of the final episode is not marked by the usual theme music from previous volumes or even an adapted version.  In an interesting twist, the story simply ends with the ship’s captain making a speech stating that he and his men must go on through the raging storm, with the scene fading out into silence.  In truth, whilst you might think that this wouldn’t work very well, it actually compliments the scene, as well as the action leading up to it, remarkably well.  It allows the listener to reflect on the drama in general, as well as the notions expressed regarding industry, ambition and judgement.  Moreover, the question of whether the captain actually stands by his word is also left unanswered.

The outtakes included as the final track were an interesting and amusing insight into the camaraderie of the cast.  They clearly demonstrate

The sound design in this adaptation is of high quality, as usually expected by Big Finish in ranges like Doctor Who.  The storm at sea and its desire to tear the ship asunder, to the one that marks the night when Frankenstein’s monster is brought into being, to the scenes in towns and cities.  All convey the era in which the story takes place with great care.

All in all, the story is timeless and Big Finish have done their part to further cement it as a prime example of gothic literature in the minds of future generations.  Regardless of whether you’ve listened to Big Finish’s work before, this one is sure to provide those new to audio dramas with a hard to beat introduction as to how enthralling they can be.  With characters that are all brought to life with great aplomb by the actors and the aid of sound design and music that enhances the cinematic atmosphere, this might just be the best Frankenstein adaptation yet.

FILTER: - Big Finish

A Dozen SummersBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
A Dozen Summers (Credit: Monkey Basket Films)
Starring Scarlet and Hero Hall,
         With Kenton Hall, Sarah Warren, Colin Baker, 
Ewen MacIntosh, David Knight, Holly Jacobson, Quinton Nyrienda, And Tallulah Sheffield    
Written And Directed by Kenton Hall
Produced by Alexzandra Jackson and Kenton Hall, 
Music Composed by Andrew Stamp
Right in the middle of the usual glut of mindless action blockbusters, remakes, reboots, and sequels, and forced comedy/relationship movies comes something a lot more modest in production glitz, glamour and capital. This is a good thing as it has much to offer in depth and is consequently the more memorable and significant for it. I was given the chance to see this film ahead of its UK release this Friday on the small screen, and may well be one of those that goes to support its (at least initially) limited run across a number of towns and cities. My connection to the film of course comes from working for this news and review website, and Colin Baker's involvement (and the man certainly makes his mark in typically resounding fashion). Yet ultimately the film is very much focused on the lives of a wonderfully engaging pair of twins who are just starting out in secondary school and who have quite a bit of creative spark to offer the world around them

The plot is very straightforward and this enables the film to throw up some quirky surprises in elegant fashion. Maisie and Daisy are two twins who live with their  divorced father Henry, and who infrequently catch up with their rather bohemian and young-hearted mother Jacqueline; seemingly never settling for one boyfriend for too long, such are her ever-changing needs. The girls are certainly bright enough, and have a bit of street smarts too, but that does not mean they can't be bothered by bullies or fall for the wrong person their age. They do not just go about their business in typical coming of age fashion, but instead have a keen awareness of the fourth wall of the actual movie they are featured in. Consequently they are able to make the film (especially in the opening half) have a few sidetracks and digressions which reflects their equally vivid imaginations. Thus the audience is treated to playful exploration of  thrillers, period dramas and rom-com genres, as well as the kind of behaviour of protagonists who feel reality tv self-consciousness

For simplicity's sake, in general one of the identical twins has hair bunched up, whilst the other has it resting down  but even if that weren't the case they are distinct from one another and have as much in common as not. The girls' self-awareness and quick wit is reflected in the film, and most of the supporting characters are shown to have flaws and strengths in equal measure. This even extends to giving some likeability to the school bullies, and overly paranoid shopkeeper (Ewen MacIntosh) who will not tolerate more than three kids in at a time, lest they succeed in stealing items. The film wants to reflect our British reality as much as show all sorts of dynamic imaginative flair.

As strong as the acting, music (Andrew Stamp puts in a lot of excellent work to make scenes breath) and editing all are, there are some signs of this project not having an endless well of finance to invest in. I also thought the plot could have easily allowed for a good ten to twenty more minutes screen time, and there were some elements such as Henry's new girlfriend being a different sort of challenge - but one he was more emotionally prepared for - feeling like a scene or two more would have really conveyed the emotions and personalities better. Also the decision not to do more with the Jane Austen parody was a bit unfortunate. If maybe understandable as that setting was likely up there in terms of cost, it still deserved a little bit more development so as not to feel like one component of a sketch show.

 Nonetheless, there are a lot of good intentions behind this little gem. Kenton Hall is the person with the most to do,  not only starring in a decent role as the twins' father but also directing, producing and including his own band  called Ist. Hall was mindful of producing something that serves to meet the high expectations children have, as  they are remarkably astute and critical thinkers. He placed trust in his own twin daughters carrying the movie,  knowing that by playing characters close to their real life selves, the audience could invest in real people with  wholly authentic and three dimensional personalities who are having to deal with all sorts of challenges. In review  material Hall was very clear in his objective to have child-like aspects without falling into the trap of being childish,  which any given film can be guilty of if not careful. And I commend him and his team for managing to produce  something organic and marching very much to its own tune. There is precious little material anyone reasonable  would just dismiss as 'puerile'.

 And what of Colin Baker, given that this review is primarily for Doctor Who fans? He certainly plays a memorable  role helping bookend the film with a combination of assertive narration and cantankerous indignation as he is  surprised by the combined might of the twins (and later some other people they know from school). Whether this  was meant as a clever reference to The Twin Dilemma (whose child actors were undoubtedly much weaker than  the  Hall girls) or not, the humour of the movie is rarely better than here. It feels contemporary, it feels satirical and  yet  also affectionate, as if the old-school narrator still has something to offer, but just needs to acquire a different  cast of  willing participants.. We are also teased with maybe seeing Colin on stage in the middle of the film, as his  harmonic  voice projects to a somewhat distracted audience, but ultimately the viewer must wait till the very end credits to see Mr Baker properly onscreen.

A very enjoyable effort from a talented cast and crew, this will hopefully capture enough of an audience on cinema release and also be popular on TVs, tablets and Smartphones. It certainly has enough potential to generate either a continuation of the story or a loose sequel using the same core cast.

FILTER: - Film