Saturday, November 7, 2020

REVIEW | Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - The Modern Prometheus adapted by Jonathan Barnes (Big Finish Classics)

Recently I picked up the actual novel by Mary Shelley and devoured it in a day. This is a novel that screamed for an audio adaptation. 

What I did notice from the book was the ambiguity in relation to the making of the monster. That and other detail I assumed would be in the book, but wasn't, finally explained to me why I had seen so many seemingly conflicting narratives in film and TV versions of the book. 

So how does this audio adaptation stack up?

The Big Finish Classics range made no bones about their desire to adapt stories as close to the original works as possible. This has not always been easy, as their version of H.G. Wells Things To Come demonstrated, though that too is a marvelous adaptation.  

As I was reading the novel, I noticed that I had never in film or TV seen any reference to the travel Victor makes to England, Scotland and Ireland. I was very happy that the audio version includes this section of the novel. 

But how close actually is it? While the novel is a deeply human book, examining the deep tragedy of one man's mistake and his journey into regret and possible redemption, Big Finish have changed the character of Victor Frankenstein into someone quite unlikeable. This however, takes nothing away from the brilliant performance of Arthur Darvill as Victor. 

The relationship between Victor, Elizabeth and Justine has been completely changed for this version and I can't say that I personally like it. While the novel induces a level of sympathy towards Victor in the reader, the audio version casts him as a repulsive and arrogant character whom I kept finding myself wanting to slap. His treatment of both Elizabeth and Justine is deplorable and not in line with the novel at all. 

I don't have an issue with this change in character, but I'm unsure about Big Finish's claim that the story is very close to the novel. It isn't that close. 

Nicholas Briggs' portrayal as the creature is incredibly good. He's up there with Robert de Nero as my favourite version of the creature. However, does the image on the cover of this set really convey the horror expressed by characters within the play? Once again, the novel is ambiguous as to what the creature looks like, but in all honesty, the image on the cover is not as terrifying as I think it could be. 

The scenes between the creature and De Lacey, played brilliantly by Geoffrey Beavers are beautiful. Until, that is, some more characters are given some downright detestable motives that tack in the complete opposite direction to the novel. To say I was shocked by the "cottagers" scenes would be an understatement. 

And speaking of Geoffrey Beavers, his main role as Alphonse Frankenstein is an example of perfect casting. His voice drips like honey into the ears and his final scenes are incredibly beautiful but immensely tragic. 

While the parts of the story set in Scotland and Ireland are there, they don't have the same feel as the novel to me. 

One of the most horrific parts of the story for me is the murder of Clerval in Ireland. Man! That was intense! But, this is a horror story after all.  

So for me, this version doesn't appear to be as faithful to the novel as it claims, but it's still a mighty fine production and a worthy addition to the Frankenstein stable of adaptations. 

Buy Frankenstein directly from the Big Finish website

Dwayne Bunney

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