Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster – BBC Iplayer

Written and Created by Conrad Murray, David Cumming and German Marvel

Directed by Geej Ower

Rating: 4 out of 5.

However one feels about The Modern Prometheus or Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s creation defied the social paradigms of the time. A young woman, already surrounded by male peers, Shelley helped lay the foundations of Western science fiction and a mythos which would be re-worked and re-imagined for decades to come.

Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster is a part-documentary adaptation of BAC Beatbox Academy’s sell-out stage show from The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which re-interprets Shelley’s work for a contemporary audience utilising a tremendous range of vocal techniques familiar with beatbox and rap.

Everything one can hear throughout originates from the human mouth; birds, busses, dogs barking, heartbeats and a plethora of inventive whistles and strums all come directly from the often overlooked or stereotyped talent of beatbox.

And while Frankenstein’s monster may be a creature of old, a silent-era Hollywood icon, the naivety and loss of belonging the creature experiences couldn’t be more relevant to present-day anxieties. Thousands of young adults without a sense of community or a place to call home all battling various crippling issues that, while always present, now have distinct angles to work their way into everyday life – social media.

Rippled across the show is a series of numbers which pinpoint an area of birth for contemporary monsters. Alive focuses on the naivety of enjoying your body before other’s judgements emerge, reflecting how Frankenstein’s monster starts life unaware of the impact his image had on others. Shifting to a menacing highlight, which demonstrates the production’s shift into filmmaking, is Generation Anonymous where Nick Morris’ direction of photography reinforces Geej Ower’s direction and takes new dynamic angles, unobtainable in the theatre, as the cold illuminations from smartphones manifests as shields for abusers to hide behind.

After each number, a brief interlude offers a glimpse into the process. Ramshackle like the monster’s corpse-limbs, aspects of How to Build a Monster are disjointed, and pieces stitch together, which individually work, as a collective can be abrasive with one another. These interluding transitions can also hinder in other respects. While diving into the Academy’s members in greater detail, deconstructing the intentions and inspirations for numbers, they stagnate the pacing and break-up the rhythm.

Understanding the meta-text of Shelley’s original novel, of a creature left behind by the creator who gave life to the poor soul, Frankenstein: How to Make A Monster never places blame on the subject matter. Instead, the members of the Academy sympathise with those who feel isolation, abuse and betrayal and find no alternative than to clamber into the shadows. Communicating their emotions in a primally raw manner, with nothing other than the human voice to echo their thoughts and express themselves, Ower creates a powerfully resonating film which expands on the original stage version with unique locations, lighting and pacing to reinforce the imagery located within the lyrics.

In bygone eras, the title of ‘monster’ was a rarity, savoured for the vilest of foul beings. Contemporary technology and accessibility have bred monstrosities into every obscure crevasse of the social world; trolls and abusers festering away behind keyboards, created out of hate, ignorance, judgement and, quite often, boredom.

Defying race, gender, orientation, the team embrace everything which Shelley’s position represented, carrying forward her themes of differences, abuse, and ego from a modern perspective. BAC Beatbox Academy retell Frankenstein for the modern era, those actively and inadvertently creating monsters within communities –online trolls and abusers and the demonisation the young face today. A stellar piece of stage-work sensationally adapted for the screen.

Available here until the end of November 

Review published for The Reviews Hub


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