A refreshingly innovative take on Mary Shelley’s 19th century novel, Augustus Stephens’ one-man performance effortlessly portrayed mental illnesses through the depiction of Victor Frankenstein, Igor, Elizabeth, as well as the Monster. While maintaining the original tropes of Shelley’s novel in his show, Stephens cleverly brings it into the contemporary by raising awareness of mental health issues within it.
Stripped back and incredibly emotive, Stephens’ one-man performance will leave you begging for more
Revolving around Frank, Frankenstein: Man or Monster has multiple personalities (called D.I.D, Dissociative Identity Disorder). The regular switches from one personality to the next manifest themselves through schizophrenia in Victor and the Monster, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Igor, and through an eating disorder in Elizabeth.
Though Victor and the Monster both suffer from schizophrenia, they individually suffer from different symptoms. Victor has paranoia and delusions of grandeur, one such delusion showing itself through his belief that he is studying at Ingolstadt University, whilst in actual fact he is more likely to be trying to get his A-Levels at Brighton. The fact that his delusions convey themselves through the educational implicitly, highlights how society needs to be more knowledgeable of the above mental conditions that are more common than one might initially think. The Monster’s schizophrenia, meanwhile, is far different. Amidst hearing voices, hallucinating and having confused speech, his view of the world is very narrow and cannot understand why people don’t see it in the same way, thus making him confused and upset.
The sudden musical interludes from the characters throughout reflected the various, ever-changing rhythms of the lives of people with such conditions. Indeed, the jarring nature with which they entered the performance, mirrored the deviation from what is considered normal behaviour in society, was made even more so by the comforting tone of the music in contrast to the often-sad sentiment of the lyrics.
Stripped back and incredibly emotive, Stephens’ one-man performance will leave you begging for more. The lack of props on stage made the audience focus more intently on the characters’ reaction to whatever situation they found themselves in. For in the “civilised” society that Stephens alludes to in Frankenstein: Man or Monster, the normative conditions it creates illuminate how all walks of life will inevitably encounter the same situations, but just won’t deal with them in the same way. This subtle allusion proved hard-hitting and gave the audience time to reflect on the blessed differences that comprise our society.
With the behaviour of the main characters being based on conversations and communications with people who have or have had these conditions, as well as Augustus’ own experiences of mental illness, Stephens boldly, but respectfully brought these issues to light. Undoubtedly, a performance to be enjoyed by all.