When wandering the streets of Toronto, it’s always refreshing to stumble upon something you weren’t expecting to see. Granted, I wasn’t wandering the streets, nor did I stumble upon Litmus Theatre’s production of The Birth of Frankenstein, but I stand by my point anyway. In a city filled with opportunity, such as Toronto, going to a new venue to see a new work, has the potential to be, a breath of fresh air. Found space theatre can be intimate, exciting and altogether invigorating, especially when coupled with good storytelling, about a good story-teller.
The Birth of Frankenstein provides this experience by telling an enthralling tale of the famed writer Mary Shelley. We are guided through her journey to find Frankenstein and make him into a real character. Along the way she discovers the true depth of her talents as a writer, while the audience is challenged too. The cast was remarkable in their performance. On piano accompaniment was Mariel Marshall, who complimented the mood of the play with an eerie classical feel. Claire Wynveen played the strong willed but quiet Mary Shelley. Although gentile in demeanor, she commanded attention when taking the darkened stage.
Light and darkness play an intricate roll in the play as a means of storytelling and mood setting. It is very dim for most of the performance, but the shadows merely hold the secrets to what is to come through the telling of this tale. Set and lighting designer Patrick Lavender used shadows not only as a means of hiding but also as a means of furthering the plot. There were several instances where the shadows made by the cast on the blank walls behind them intensified the moment. Later, shadow puppetry is used as an incredible emphasis for the intensity of the scene.
The right space has an energy within it that can tell a story almost on its own. Combine such a company as Litmus Theatre, with a talented cast, a solid story, dramatic music and clever lighting results in an enthralling tale. With the limited engagement, limited seating and Hallowe’en – such a classical scare adds to the season’s mood and milieu.