We sat down with Isabel Dixon, writer of ‘Frankenstein’ and Co-Artistic Director of Burn Bright Theatre to discuss inspiration for the show and why you should always back up your work…
How are rehearsals going?
Really well! Itâ€™s been fantastic to actually get the script on its feet and start playing with it. (Not least because I wrote most of it alone in my bedroom listening to horror film soundtracks to get me in the right mood.) The company weâ€™ve assembled is a lovely group of past Burn Bright collaborators, people weâ€™ve worked with elsewhere and have long wanted to bring into the company, plus brand new faces. A scarily talented mix.
Any big breakthroughs?
Weâ€™ve been playing with puppetry, which has been great. Frankenstein has a huge cast of characters, and we have an ensemble of five, so itâ€™s been important to find some creative ways of creating the world of the play that donâ€™t involve copious amounts of costume changes. The musical element of the show is also hugely exciting. Laura Kaye Thomson, our musical director, played us a rough outline of the showâ€™s main theme a couple of weeks ago and it was my first speechless moment â€“ all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Thereâ€™ll be plenty more of those before weâ€™re doneâ€¦
Any unexpected discoveries?
Thereâ€™s so many bits of Frankenstein as a novel that are terrifying as a playwright to adapt. How on earth do you show a stitched together corpse suddenly coming back to life, for example? Weâ€™re using a very bare-bones approach with our adaptation; weâ€™re known for our low-fi, intimate style. For this project weâ€™ve also been inspired by horror shows like The Woman In Black, which keep the production values very low key and place the value on suspense and well-crafted narrative. So combining that production style with these epic moments has resulted in some very innovative storytelling. Itâ€™s amazing what you can do with a room of talented collaborators.
Whatâ€™s your favourite moment in the show so far?
From an adaptation perspective, Iâ€™m totally fascinated by Justineâ€™s story. Sheâ€™s a servant in the Frankenstein household, and is wrongfully accused of murdering the youngest Frankenstein brother (a terrible crime actually committed by the Creature). The way sheâ€™s treated by both the religious orders and lawmakers of her time â€“ who sheâ€™s put her trust in to protect her â€“ is horribly resonant, and forces you to question who the real monsters actually are.
I had a horrible panic and thought Iâ€™d lost half a draft when my laptop crashed. First of all: always save as you go. Second of all: back everything up. (And finally, thank you to the Apple gods for their technological recovery know-how!)
What keeps you going in the rehearsal room?
Love for the novel, a passion for making theatre, the pressure to do Mary Shelley proud and copious amounts of Diet Coke.
Less then two weeks from opening night â€“ how are you feeling?
Nervous â€“ Katherine and I are also co-producing the show, as well as doing all the fun, creative directing and writing stuff â€“ so itâ€™s a lot of balls to juggle! Weâ€™ve been hugely passionate about this project throughout the process, from swapping notes and ideas while re-reading the novel last summer, to getting into the room and actually staging it â€“ itâ€™s felt like a very epic adventure.
But we canâ€™t wait. Bring it on!