Lukasz Giza


Reviewer's Rating

In 1818 Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, a novel that tells the story of a young ambitious scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created a terrifying, yet sapient monster in his laboratory. Since then, the monster, commonly referred to as “Frankenstein”, has continued to stir the imagination of subsequent generations of artists and has appeared in numerous films, TV shows, and derivative works. Even though two centuries have passed since his birth, the monster is doing great in the world of popular culture, as can be observed in the example of Wojciech Kościelniak’s musical.

The production originally premiered in 2011, when the theatre building was being renovated, and was forgotten for several years. It returned to the Wrocław stage at the beginning of 2018, and fortunately so. Kościelniak’s Frankenstein is the perfect blend of horror, comedy, impeccable acting, and catchy songs that one can imagine in theatre.

The musical, much like Shelley’s novel, tells the story of the scientist’s desire to play god. But in there, one can find references to the best known pop cultural reinterpretations of the 1818 horror as well. Victor’s assistant is a hunchbacked Igor who, just like his counterpart from Young Frankenstein, causes a disaster by bringing his master the wrong brain. The two-meter-tall monster bears a striking resemblance to Boris Karloff in the 1931 film, while his beloved’s looks bring to mind the image known from Bride of Frankenstein. In fact, the pop cultural quotations extend far beyond the Frankenstein universe. There are policemen who behave as if they were employed in the Ministry of Silly Walks, seductive bunnies straight from Marilyn Manson’s video clip, projections evoking Metropolis’s aesthetics… The list could go on and on but what matters is that the tissue of cultural quotations that Kościelniak weaves onstage is by no means overwhelming or disruptive; on the contrary, it subtly enriches the 19th century story with a light-hearted yet grotesque mood.

The main reason for Frankenstein being a genuine pleasure to watch, however, is excellent acting. Mariusz Kiljan plays Victor as full of conflicting emotions, ranging from naïve ambition and scientific frenzy to despair and indifference. No matter how detached and horrified by his own deeds the scientist grows, he continues to exude an entertaining aura of gallows humour. Cezary Studniak’s portrayal of the creature is also faultless. His clumsy moves, crude speech, and exaggerated facial expressions can make everyone fall in love with Frankenstein’s monster within a couple of minutes. If that’s not enough, wait until you hear him sing in a deep hoarse voice about scars and seams he wants his beloved to have – a lifelong infatuation with the monster is guaranteed. Victor’s mother (Justyna Szafran) is another memorable character, who pronounces her uncontrollable, at times even devastating love for her son throughout the performance. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to praise each and every cast member here, but I can assure you that there is virtually no weak acting spot in this play.

With its bawdy humour, unforgettable songs, and grotesque portrayal of reality, Wojciech Kościelniak’s Frankenstein is a perfect choice not only for avid musical fans but also those who want to disconnect from the serious and grim world for at least three hours. The play does not abandon Shelley’s original ethical message completely but rather conveys it in an entertaining, comical way. It makes us realize that theatre does not always have to be dead serious to add some value to our lives.