Theatre Reviews

Young Frankenstein: A brilliant, hilarious twist on Mary Shelley’s classic novel

As a huge fan of both the book Frankenstein and a fan of Mel Brooks, I have waited to see this production since I heard it was coming to the West End, and safe to say it did not fail to disappoint.

Director: Susan Stroman

Writer: Mel Brooks

Starring: Hadley Fraser, Lesley Joseph, Cory English, Dianne Pilkington, Summer Strallen

Theatre: Garrick Theatre, London

Although the play was originally a movie starring the late Gene Wilder I hadn’t seen the film version nor read up on what the show was about and I am glad I hadn’t as I love seeing a production without any prior knowledge.

Of course, knowing it was a Mel Brooks production, I had some idea of that it was to be a spoof and comedy rather than a serious look at the dangers of man playing God – as Shelley’s novel is.

The play follows Frederik Frankenstein, a respected medical lecturer, who learns that he has inherited his infamous grandfather’s estate in Transylvania.

Arriving at the castle, Dr. Frankenstein soon begins to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of servants Igor, Inga and Frau Blucher.

Once he creates his own monster, new complications arise once the doctor’s fiancée Elizabeth arrive.

With a relatively large cast and a small stage, the production does not fail to utilise the entire stage through its simple set designs and clever ways to move the narrative along.

The entire cast is fantastic. Hadley Fraser as the titular character really gets into the mind of a doctor and, I have to applaud him for remembering all of the medical lines throughout the dialogue and songs.

Listening back to the soundtrack, I cannot fathom how long it had taken him to memorise and perfect it all.

One of the best performances is Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph as Frau Blucher. Being 72 and still able to sing, dance and keep in character with ease was truly amazing to see.

Cory English and Summer Strallen as hunchback Igor and assistant Inga respectively were perfect supporting cast and were often the most humorous out of the cast.

However, I must say Dianne Pilkington as Elizabeth was my favourite performance of the production.

Her voice was utterly brilliant and although her character isn’t in the show for that long, every time she was on stage you knew there was going to be a great song to follow including Please Don’t Touch Me, Surprise and Deep Love.

As most Mel Brooks productions and movies, there is references to popular culture and criticism of Hollywood’s similar narratives and instead of having the villagers having pitchforks and storming the castle, they decide to welcome Frankenstein to Transylvania instead.

Although originally a movie, some of the themes and the songs could be related to current issues affecting the world.

In particular, although it is a song about not touching each other sexually until saying their wedding vows, I couldn’t help but relating Please Don’t Touch Me to the current sexual harassment and misconduct allegations coming to light across the film, music, theatre and fashion industries.

As all Mel Brooks’ movies and plays there is often breaking of the fourth wall, whether it is through facial features, gestures or even directly speaking to us, which works wonderfully to add to the humour and comedy.

There is one particular scene with a blind hermit and the monster which had the audience roaring with laughter.

One thing to point out, while watching the show, keep an eye out for the set designs in the background, there are some references to the iconic gothic novel including a steam boat being named after the author.

The production truly is brilliant. The songs are catchy, the acting is outstanding and the script is hilarious.

It is a great addition to London’s West End and perfect to see on a cold, wintry day.

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