It is hard to believe world-renowned choreographer Liam Scarlett was only 29 when he was creating The Royal Ballet’s Frankenstein in 2016. Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece here is eschewed its campy Hammer Horror trappings and given the full romantic treatment, including a sweeping orchestral score by Lowell Liebermann (conducted by Barry Wordsworth).
Chinese-born Wei Wang, only 26 and a soloist at San Francisco Ballet, is an absolute revelation as the pitiable, patchwork creature with the mind of a child. First stumbling and falling, we get the feeling that every step he takes is a discovery. When he meets naïve young William (Ptolemy Gidney) in a game of blind man’s buff, they spin and high kick in joyous unison.
But in the third act, things get really weird. Victor Frankenstein (Federico Bonelli) and Elizabeth (Laura Morera) appear to get married on the surface of the moon, with a pristine white staircase curving off to the side into nowhere, surrounded by aristocratic dancing figures in timeless starry, costumes (all designed by John MacFarlane). Nobody notices the creature dancing naked among them, except tormented Victor himself. Could it be that the creature exists only in Victor’s mind?
Scarlett is not wrong when he says: “Narrative work is riskier than abstract work, because you have to get from beginning to end cohesively”. It is remarkable to see a new work that works so well in the classical idiom, that also retains devastating modern ambiguities. To get that all across through movement and music alone is an astonishing achievement. A moving, fantastical experience.
There are still tickets available to see Victor and his creation at the Royal Opera House until 23 March 2019.