First, allow me to vent my admiration for this show with mindless superlatives: Fantastic. Incredible. Hilarious, yet moving. Powerful. Energetic. Superb.
This is what I was spluttering to my friends after seeing Dr Frankenstein’s Freak Show. It was – I mean it sincerely – one of the most impressive theatre performances I have ever seen.
A word about the setting. In Jubilee Square, a ‘Library of Delightfully Peculiar Writings’ has been erected: a temporary venue sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin with that familiar theme of Victorian eccentricity. Think skulls, taxidermy, and mysterious concoctions; moustache-sporting dandies, top hats and canes. It was the ideal home for the work of the Tin Shed Theatre Company.
Settling down in the front row with a complimentary glass of gin and tonic (slice of cucumber included), my eyes settled on the six-piece orchestra to the right of the stage. Appropriately, they were dressed like freaks themselves, in an array of pig snouts and Venetian masks. They transpired to be a group called ‘Inc.A’, a virtuosic ensemble whose work blended seamlessly with the drama.
The show abruptly began with the hectic entrance of Dr Frankenstein, played by Justin Cliffe, whose performance I cannot praise highly enough. Justin kept the audience enthralled with an immense energy and charisma that must have claimed every morsel of his dedication. He played a character at once evil and comedic, and he shifted the tone with extraordinary deftness.
After introducing the audience to his freaks, there proceeded a play-within-a-play in which they and Dr Frankenstein enacted a two-act version of Frankenstein itself. This rendered an interesting piece of metatheatre that enabled a creative interaction between the two dramatic planes, which ultimately culminated as one. The script had some issues with pacing, but it was intelligent and the work of some evidently skilled dramatists.
When the show finished, I urged to speak to the cast, as they had become icons before my eyes. Alas, they disappeared behind the backstage curtain; but at least the suspension of disbelief remained intact.
In summary, I implore you to see this show. There was a disappointingly and undeservedly small turnout for its opening night, and it would be a shame if that continued. Intelligent, lively and imaginative, this is fringe theatre at its best.