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The Rabble’s Frankenstein

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Melbourne-based theatre company, The Rabble (director Emma Valente and designer Kate Davis) has made a name for itself for provocative and lurid adaptations of the literary canon, such as Orlando and The Story of O.

Their take on Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, Frankenstein is a horror story of abject motherhood. Dr Frankenstein (Mary Helen Sassman) is a scientist whose biological clock is ticking.

Aided by Elizabeth (Dana Miltins) and the servant girl, Justine (Emily Milledge), Frankenstein’s quest for life is part embryonic science, part desperate maternal urge. The result is a monster in her own parodic image: a surrealist, hyper-feminine adult woman seeking maternal love in all its forms (Jane Montgomery Griffiths).

Like all of The Rabble’s work, Frankenstein is built layer by layer. The text is a pastiche of Shelley’s words, romantic poetry, and present-day clichés, which Valente further splices with pop-cultural references and horror-movie tropes.

The visual aesthetic that is one of the company’s hallmarks, results in some unforgettable images. Davis’s set is a radiant orange box strewn with black water-filled sacs, spark plugs and running hoses, evoking the reproductive body with man-made materials.

It is never subtle but often ambiguous, which is a line The Rabble boldly and not always successfully tread. There is no doubt, however, that this is a company to watch and re-watch.

The Rabble’s “Frankenstein” is playing at Malthouse Theatre until April 5. For tickets and further information visit: malthousetheatre.com.au


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