Tea Break Theatre presents Frankenstein
There’s a question that has been popping into my head since I was thirteen whenever I sit down to read up on British history: where are all the women?
Years later I still find myself pondering that question. Well, not quite the same question, I now know why I wasn’t reading about the exploits of women from the past but I’m still asking myself: what were they doing? What events, revolutions and evolutions were they quietly shaping in their hidden, unrecorded homes?
We will never know the full extent of the answer but there are some who have helped us out by being unashamedly bold about their presence and impact. In particular the women of 19th century literature: Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti and… Mary Shelley. The young woman who, it is considered, invented a whole genre of literature by writing one, breathtaking, book: Frankenstein.
I love Frankenstein. Even the rather ponderous Gothic bits where it rambles on about mountains and the sublime for ages. I love the darkness of it, the psychology, the science, the terror and the heart-aching pain of it. It’s a novel which asks questions that had never before been asked in that way. Questions about the nature of life and humanity, but told through the mouth of a scientific creation. This is the birth of Science Fiction. And I love that genre so it is for this, more than anything else, that I love Frankenstein: the mother of Sci-Fi.
But here comes another question (or rather the same question but one I didn’t expect to ask when reading a groundbreaking book written by the daughter of a feminist icon): where are all the women?! Because Shelley doesn’t write any! Yes, there’s Elizabeth but she has so little personality it’s clear she is intended merely as a lure and a hostage. Similarly the female companion Victor builds and then destroys. And yet the whole book is really about women: the pain of creating life, the arrogance of man trying to replace that undeniable female super power, the problems of a society where the rules of how you should look, behave and love are all decided by one elite group of men… And yet the female voice, where all this is coming from, remains invisible. Quiet.
The power of theatre is its ability to make the invisible visible. So when it comes to Frankenstein, to my mind, the job of theatre is clear: let the invisible women within it be seen and heard. Which is what, this year, we’ve decided to do.
Our version of Frankenstein sees Victor bringing a female creature to life: the ideal woman who fails to live up to his expectations. The fear, bloodshed and torment that follow is double edged (as the novel intended) and we want our audience to leave still pondering that ultimate question: who is the real monster?
This year’s production is also inspired by Sutton House’s occupation, in the 1980s, by a group of female-led squatters who saved the house from destruction - a group of under-represented, often ignored people who shaped the house's (and, indeed, the local area's) history and, therefore, its present. We will be weaving our narrative into this backdrop using puppetry, shadows and scares to bring the building, and the story of Frankenstein, to life so that our audience find themselves well and truly surrounded by this haunting creation.
Be warned: nothing is as it seems when you step inside this twisting tale. Only one thing is truly certain… It lives.
Frankenstein is running at Sutton House from 16th October to 3rd November (not 20th, 24th & 29th), 7:30pm, doors and bar open from 7pm. Please wear comfy shoes and warm clothing. We are sorry that, owing to the old and protected nature of the building, the show is not wheelchair accessible.
Your ticket to 'Frankenstein' permits you an additional free entry to visit Sutton House in the daytime during the period 17th October-4th November. One free entry per ticket. Please show your ticket on arrival. Sutton House is open 12-5pm, Wednesday-Sunday.