It might still be early in October, but the Halloween celebrations are already in full swing in Coventry, with two monstrously good productions haunting the city centre, both inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Brought back to life in a faithful adaptation by acclaimed playwright Rona Munro (The James Plays), Shelley’s gothic masterpiece is currently captivating audiences at the Belgrade Theatre, where it shows on the theatre’s B2 Stage until Saturday 12 October.
Then from Friday 25 October, the genius duo at Vortex Creates will resurrect their own horrifying creation, Nightmares and Nibbles, a no-holds-barred immersive experience stitching together live theatre with a gruesome bodily buffet and experimental cocktail concoctions.
To celebrate their joint inspiration in the nightmarish novel that pioneered the sci-fi genre and changed the course of English literature for good, actors from the two shows assembled on Friday at the Old Grammar School– the atmospheric 12th-century building where Nightmares and Nibbles takes place.
Amidst the gothic windows and blackened benches of the imposing building, Eilidh Loan(Mary Shelley), Ben Castle-Gibb (Victor Frankenstein) and Michael Moreland (the Monster) from the Belgrade’s Frankenstein production posed for photos and settled in for a chat with Kathryn Hanke, who plays Nightmares and Nibbles’ Mary the Monster.
Together, the two shows offer a perfect juxtaposition of Mary Shelley’s original vision with the more exaggerated monster myth that her groundbreaking story eventually spawned.
“[Mary Shelley] is amazing,”says Eilidh Loan. “I love everything she stands for as a person. She isn’t scared to voice her opinions and use her writing to share her political views. She came from a family that really encouraged her to break outside of the social norms, and we see in the play this really punky, rebellious attitude she brings to her work and her life.”
“We’re trying to get away from the cliché of the Monster that people have in their heads from Boris Karloff and all the Frankensteinf ilms,”adds Michael Moreland. “When you go back to the book, he’s not like that as a character. He’s super-intelligent, and he can have these philosophical debates with Victor Frankenstein who we know is a genius.”
For Kathryn Hanke, on the other hand, it’s all about playing up her character’s monstrosity as much as possible.
“I love her anarchy and chaos,”says Hanke. “Mary [the Monster] doesn’t have any sense or acknowledgement of societal norms as she was raised in a lab as someone’s creation.”
Despite the differences, you can expect a suitably spine-chilling experience to suit the spooky season from both shows – although their scares do come from very different places. While Rona Munro’s Frankenstein draws on the real-life horrors of human nature, Nightmares and Nibbles serves up a much more openly gruesome, heightened kind of horror.
Rona Munro says: “The horror of the Monster comes from Frankenstein failing to take responsibility for his own actions and being unable to escape their consequences. It’s about relentless pursuit and having the illusion of escape, only for the horror to come back to you.”
Vortex Creates says: “We give guests a truly immersive dining experience where they get the chance to dine with Frankenstein inside a fantastical laboratory setting. While enjoying a daring adventure in visuals, comedy and taste our Mary makes the experience come to life, twisting your perception to reveal an all too human monster.”
Produced by the Belgrade Theatre, Selladoor, Perth Theatre and Matthew Townshend Productions, Frankenstein shows at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry until Saturday 12 October. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper.
Vortex Creates’ Nightmares and Nibbles shows at the Old Grammar School on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 October, and on Friday 1 November, with exclusive booking available for Thu 31 October. To find out more, visit www.nightmaresandnibbles.co.uk