On Thursday night MADF welcomed University Players, Hamburg to perform their interpretation of two one-act plays: Lift Not the Painted Veil by Julie Lerpiniere and Nigel Harvey, and Svenja Baumann’s adaptation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. University Players, Hamburg very cleverly brought the invention and story of Mary Shelley’s creature to life through a complex and challenging narrative.
The first half of the evening was dedicated to Lift Not the Painted Veil which tells the story of Mary Shelley’s life. The story is told from the perspective of an Old Mary Shelley (Jana Stűven) who is visited by her creature (Jasper Koch) wondering how he came about. She tells of her marriage to Percy Bysshe Shelley (Marc Borchert) and their parties with Jane Claremont (Gesa Penthin) and Lord Byron (Steven Montero) and how this lead to the invention of the creature in her world famous novel ‘Frankenstein’.
The second half was devoted to Frankenstein in which the University Players, Hamburg tell the story of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ through the creature’s perspective. The story follows the journey of Young Creature (Paul Kahre) showing his interactions with mankind and his creator Victor Frankenstein (Simon Deggim) and is narrated by the Old Creature (Jasper Koch).
The two one-act plays are explicitly linked by the Old Creature showing his creation, his journey through life and ultimately how he came to be the monster he is due to mankind’s prejudice.
University Players, Hamburg provided us with an exceptional acting team. Koch’s Old Creature was a particularly powerful performance with a strong delivery, great eye contact with the audience and excellent final speeches at the end of each play. Each team member had brilliant characterisation. Just to mention a few, Stűven’s Old Mary Shelley had great, believable facial reactions to the weeping young Mary Shelley. Penthin’s Justine had a powerful delivery of the innocence speech. Deggim successfully depicted Victor’s increasing disgust in the creature and his growing despair. Baumann’s Elisabeth had a touching moment before her death trying to reach out to the creature to make human contact and Kahre’s Young Creature very effectively portrayed the characters journey from curious and innocent to malicious and deviant. There was lovely mirroring and paralleled movements between Koch’s Old Creature and Kahre’s Young Creature.
All the actors worked very effectively together as a unit, this was evident in the choral work presented throughout which shaped the whole action from beginning to end. There was a good stillness in the chorus as to not detract from the central action and the players weaved in and out of the chorus with precision and an elegant simplicity. University Players, Hamburg showed a lot of different acting techniques in their performance: choral speaking, still frames, puppet movements, singing, dancing and physical theatre. There was a great use of the whole breadth and width of the stage, in particular in the drowning scene and the wedding scene which were both beautifully choreographed.
University Players, Hamburg had beautiful costumes, there was fine detail in all the concepts which had been deeply considered. There was also a clever touch of using the signifiers of the red cloths to symbolise death. The set was kept quite simple focusing on the use of key furnishings and lighting effects to distinguish between different spaces on stage. University Players, Hamburg had a very ambitious but extremely effective use of lighting and sound. The lighting was complex but subtle, there was a wonderful use of the spotlights on the chorus and the bright and coloured lights at the sides of the stage were used to set the mood. They certainly used all the technology of the theatre.
Adjudicator, Robert Meadows said the following about the performance: “This was a striking example of very good ensemble work. The company brought the story of Mary Shelley and her ‘Frankenstein’ to life using highly imaginative stagecraft throughout.”
University Players, Hamburg performed an exquisitely shaped piece of theatre with each play engaging the audience fully in different ways. This was a riveting production of Mary Shelley’s life and work brought to life through exceptional acting, singing and dance movement.
- Megan Rossiter, MADF Roving Reporter