Pictures: Frankenstein Q&A @nationaltheatre
Tender Napalm, Southwark Playhouse

Frankenstein Q&A: some of the Q's and A's

IMGP3343 This is an abridged version of the Q&A from last night's charity, post-show event at the National. Someone recorded the whole thing and you can listen in segments on You Tube although the sound quality isn't great.

Just to put it in context. We were all given the green masks to wear (as modelled by Christmas Bear below) as a surprise to Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller and Danny Boyle when they came out. Didn't quite go to plan as the lights were down so they couldn't really see us.

Benedict has been poorly and losing his voice but sounded fine while Jonny sounded a bit horse so I guess he had played the creature. Benedict was drinking beer although Jonny did steal it off him at one point and take a glug. There was a bit of a bromance going on between the two, lots of praise for each other and touching. They are either good actors or have obviously grown close.

The woman from the world service, who lead the Q&A, seemed a little bit out of her depth at times (did cringe a couple of time but perhaps that's the journalist in me). Maybe she was just overwhelmed by the company. A few clips from the live broadcast were shown but these were curtailed so that there was time for more questions as the whole thing started rather late.

IMG_0219 How did play come about?
DB: I had been working on the idea of doing Frankenstein as a play for a long, long time. Was nearly ready back in 1994 but then Kenneth Brannagh’s film came out and it wasn’t well received. It put people off doing the play.

How did you approach the opening ‘birth’ scene?
JLM: We had a movement coach and started off working as oil and water.
BC: We also visited autistic children as they have barriers to certain movements.

Now you’ve been doing the play for a while, which part do you prefer to play?
BC: I enjoy playing both parts but it is pretty obvious which is the bigger part. But I do love working with Jonny’s creature.
As we’ve got further into the run I do sometime look at Jonny and hope that I’m not mouthing his lines.
When you are on stage as the creature you can hear the audience coming in and what they are saying. One night I heard a woman saying: ‘Oh no, it’s him’.

Questions from the audience*:

Q What was it like acting naked and how did you prepare?
JLM: We were both terrified but Danny told us that people would be thinking that we have guts.
BC: We didn’t go straight into it, stripping off straight away.
JLM: It was Andreea (Padurariu, Female Creature) who led the way and played in the nude first.

Q How have the performances evolved over the weeks?
DB: You can guarantee that when you come back and see a play a few weeks later it will be funnier. Actors tend to gravitate towards the humour. But it is great seeing the actors relax into the roles. Having the dual roles is a lovely way of keeping the actors on their toes.
BC: There is a lot of sharing. I used to watch Jonny in the wings but I still pick up things that he does.
JLM: There is a joke: How many actors does it take to change a light bulb? – 41. One to change the bulb and 40 to stand around saying ‘I wouldn’t have done it like that’. It is great to see another actor doing your work. We gave each other permission to share. Yes you say: ‘I wouldn’t do it like that’ but equally you say: ‘Yes I would do it like that’. Benedict is very good.

Q How did you decide to have two actors playing the dual roles and how did you direct?
DB: I always wanted to have two actors because Frankenstein and the Creature are essentially one. Occasionally during rehearsal they would say to me we haven’t done enough of a certain part.
BC: We read through one version then we’d read through the other. The dual role was a huge reason for doing it, it was a huge driver and very satisfying because you own the whole play.
You can’t build on the role in the same way as you have to leave the role behind and move on to the other role.
One Saturday we ran through both versions for the first time and afterwards I thought it would be good idea for us to go and see Black Swan. That wasn’t a good idea.

Q Was the play written with the Olivier stage in mind?
DB: I always wanted to do it on the Oliver stage. Nicholas Hytner originally offered me the Lyttleton – perhaps he thought I was little rusty at stage directing.
We wanted to fill the space but there are problems in getting people on and off the stage and keeping the action moving in such a big space.
BC: Feel so very lucky to be working on the Olivier. Was one time when I was looking down on the stage at everything going on and I got quite emotional.

Someone then brought up the bell, which hangs over the audience, and it was tolled so people could hear it. Danny told us it is very old and was actually made during Shakespeare’s time.

Q Visiting autistic children was mentioned as part of the preparation, what else did you do?
DB: We went to an autopsy, which was Benedict’s idea.
BC: I wanted to understand how you could be professional in a heightened environment. I found it fascinating. The body did have personality but it also just seemed like a prosthetic because we’ve been desensitised.

Benedict then went on to give a graphic description of the autopsy that made Jonny squirm slightly in his seat – perhaps not as desensitised as BC?

More pictures from the Q&A

* Note to audience members who decide to ask a question: Cut to the chase.  No one really cares what you or your Aunt Flossy thought. You aren't Jonathan Ross, it isn't about you, just ask the friggin' question. That way we get more questions and get to hear more from the actors. That is, afterall why we are all there and in this instance why we paid £10 for the privilege. *Takes a deep breath*