Spotlight On… Writer of an Adaptation of Frankenstein, John Ginman

Blackeyed Theatre, in association with South Hill Park, presents  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Adapted by John Ginman 
UK Tour: September 2016 – March 2017 

To book tickets visit this link:    

Marking the 200th anniversary of the creation of Frankenstein, Blackeyed Theatre’s brand new stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s gothic horror masterpiece embarks on a five-month UK tour.
Geneva, 1816 – Victor Frankenstein obsesses in pursuit of nature’s secret, the elixir of life itself. But nothing can prepare him for what he creates.  So begins a gripping life or death adventure taking him to the ends of the earth and beyond.
Adapted by John Ginman, who penned Blackeyed Theatre’s hugely successful 2013 production of Dracula, this world premiere fuses bold ensemble storytelling, live music, puppetry and stunning theatricality to create a fresh telling of what has become a landmark work of literature.
A unique feature of the production is the use of Bunraku-style puppetry to portray The Creature.  Designed and built by Yvonne Stone (Warhorse, His Dark Materials), the full size 6’4” puppet, which needs up to 3 people to manipulate it, adds an exciting new dimension to the retelling of the classic story.
Director Eliot Giuralarocca says, I’m really excited to be directing Frankenstein. It’s a taut, gripping thriller, an exciting gothic fairy tale for grown-ups and a morality play all rolled into one. It’s always a daunting challenge to attempt to breathe new life into a classic but with a wonderful ensemble cast and a fusion of bold storytelling, music, sound and Bunraku-style puppetry I’m hoping we can bring Mary Shelley’s gothic fairy tale kicking and screaming into life!
John Ginman comments, Working on this has left me full of admiration for the achievement of the nineteen-year-old novice writer, who responded to the challenge of inventing a ghost story ‘to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart’.  This version seeks to provoke thought and discussion around many key issues that have renewed significance for us today including the ethics of genetic experimentation, and the causes of violent behaviour in some marginalised social groups.
The cast includes Ben Warwick as Victor Frankenstein (seasons at The National Theatre, Theatre Royal York, Royal Theatre Northampton, Watford Palace and The Finborough), Max Gallagher as Henry Clerval (Home Fires – ITV, James & The Giant Peach – Sell A Door, PIAF – Charing Cross/Bridewell), Lara Cowin as Elizabeth Lavenza (The Obfuscati – Theatre 503, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom – Fiery Angel), Louis Labovitch (STOMP! – US tour, Leave Hitler to Me – Arts Theatre) and Ashley Sean-Cook (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – Children’s Touring Partnership, My Pet Monster & Me – Blunderbus UK tour).


I chatted to John about next year’s tour…

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

This decision to adapt Frankenstein was the result of a series of conversations between myself and Blackeyed Theatre. Blackeyed have clear views about how each show grows out of all the shows it has staged before. It’s very mindful of its potential audiences, and its desire to create exciting, challenging performances. We discussed a number of possible subjects, but Frankenstein was the clear front-runner, and I was very happy with that.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

It’s often more about thinking rather than writing! Adapting a two hundred page novel to the requirements of a two hour touring theatre show means that you have to be extremely selective. You have to find the creative opportunities in the restrictions you are working with. In this case, the process has taken eighteen months on and off, and four drafts, with further script changes in rehearsal. With Frankenstein, the structure was established early on, and most of the rest of the writer’s work has been to make sure that the telling of the story is clear, and that the interplay between the characters is strong.

Is it translating well from page to stage? 

Yes. It’s been fascinating to watch the actors working with the script in rehearsal. Hopefully they always pick up on the things you have planted in the script, and find something extra as well. That’s been the case this time. Also, parts of the script rely very heavily on action and sound, and it’s always exciting to see how a company approaches these in a creative way.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

This is a touring show and part of the interest of the project is seeing how the production will expand and contract spatially to work in diverse venues. The central section of the set provides a very strong focus for action that can be modified as needed in the different venues the show is visiting.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

An experience that is uniquely theatrical, something you would not encounter on screen, for example. Something that has engaged them imaginatively and emotionally. This adaptation includes two aspects of Shelley’s novel that are often omitted in stage adaptations: the stories of Robert Walton and the Creature himself. I hope these enrich the experience of the audience.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Acquire the habit of writing as part of your routine. Don’t wait for ‘inspiration’ – it’s best to make writing part of your routine every day, even if only for a few minutes, just like cleaning your teeth. If you choose to write for theatre, make sure you’re aware of the work that’s out there and which companies or venues you are interested in writing for. Remember that theatre writing is about connecting with an audience in a public space.

Thanks so much for the interview, John, look forward to seeing this next year.


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