Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, dramatized by Lucy Catherine

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BBC Radio 4, 28 October - 4 November 2012

Sometimes stories can lose their point due to over-familiarity.  This is certainly the case with Frankenstein, where James Whale's famous 1930 film with Karloff has cast a giant shadow over all subsequent representations of the character.  Radio has an advantage in this respect, as we cannot actually see the monster, and can only imagine him and his awesome power in our minds.

Or maybe Mary Shelley's story is actually about something completely different.  This was certainly the impression I received from Marc Beeby's swift-moving production, whose focus centered more on Frankenstein (James Parker).  Although a brilliant scientist, it was clear that his personal life was quite simply non-existent; hence he channeled all his energies into creating the monster.  By doing so he wanted to prove his claim to fame; that he had somehow transcended the need for an outlet to express his emotions.

This strategy returned the tale to its romantic roots; it was not about monsters, but rather about an overreacher who actually upset the balance of nature in his manic desire to prove himself to those around him.  While there was no else to blame, we did feel somehow sorry for Frankenstein; his emotional life was so crippled that he could not understand how to repair it.

The action moved with a frightening sense of inevitability: once Frankenstein had been discovered on the point of death and began to tell his tale to Captain Walton (Alun Raglan), we knew that it would end in violence and death.  There was no other way in which the hapless doctor could understand how wrong-headed he had been.