Birth of Frankenstein leaves the stage behind and invites the audience to play in a Toronto church parlour
As soon as I heard that Litmus Theatre was staging their production of Birth of Frankenstein in a 19th century church I knew that I had to see it. Matchbox Macbeth, which they performed in a garage in 2011, was wonderful. Litmus is an inventive, imaginative theatre company and I expected that Birth of Frankenstein would be special.
It was. From the minute that I walked through the doors into the church it felt like an adventure.
Saint Luke’s United Church on Sherbourne is huge. I’ve never given a lot of thought to what else is in a church building other than the actual church part.Walking to the ticket desk felt as if I were in a labyrinth.
I go through the doors, turn right, then turn left and go down a long hall with three or four closed doors on each side. It’s dark at the end of the hall but as I get closer I can see the flickering of candles. Turn left again and I’m in another hallway. The ticket desk is at the end of the hall and is lit by candlelight.
The show has started and I haven’t even picked up my ticket.
It’s a terrific way to prepare the audience for the show and to make them feel that they are part of it.
The feeling continued as we were led to our seats in The Parlour Room; a big square room with exposed ceiling beams, an open fireplace and leaded glass windows along one wall. In one corner there was a big four-poster bed and, in another, a grand piano. The space was all lit by candles. I think there was some electric lighting but it was very unobtrusive.
Birth of Frankenstein is the story of Mary Shelley’s life leading up to the time that she wrote Frankenstein. It starts with her birth and ends with the book. The script was written by Matthew Thomas Walker, Claire Wynveen, and Adriano Sobretodo Jr. and includes excerpts from the writing of Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, William Godwin, Mary Woolstonecraft, and Lord Byron. It’s quite beautiful and flows smoothly between the original material and the quoted material.
There are 4 actors playing nine characters. Claire Wynveen is Mary; Adriano Sobretodo Jr. is Percy and Victor; Tosha Doiron is Woolstonecraft, Jane, and Elizabeth; and Adrian Proszowski is Godwin, Byron, and The Creature. Background music which helps set the tone is written and performed by Mariel Marshall. It’s a lot of talent in one space.
The show was hauntingly beautiful. As much as I loved the piece and the performances, it’s the atmosphere that I keep thinking about, the amazing use of light and shadow that became part of the piece. What great use of such a great space!
If you’re planning to see Birth of Frankenstein get your tickets now. The room only seats 40 people.
- Birth of Frankenstein is playing at The Parlour Room, Saint Luke’s United Church (353 Sherbourne St – Sherbourne and Carlton) until November 3rd
- Show times – 8 pm No show on October 28
- Tickets are $30.00, $20.00 for students and artists
- Tickets are available online. If available cash tickets will be sold at the door.
Photograph of (L-R) Adriano Sobretodo Jr., Claire Wynveen, Tosha Doiron, and Adrian Proszowski by Justin Cutler