Frank Enstein: twisted turns of monster mashup

Rita Clarke, The Australian

This engaging 60-minute dance theatre production — created by The Farm in collaboration with Co3 Australia — takes inspiration from the fairytale legends of all those outsiders who create imaginary helpmates.

The appealing set design by Vilma Mattila is based on a rectangular open-sided box and is labelled “Laboratory”, inside which the disabled Frank (William Rees) lives and creates superhuman creations. The lab is sparse and comprises a table, model torsos, heads, arms and legs, neon signs and not much else. Rees does a superb impersonation of an achingly vulnerable youth trying to morph into a manic professor.

To the side, on a sunny grassy patch, with disc-player party hat and tinsel, dressed in a long-skirted summer gown, is Liz (Luci Young), much desired as a companion by Frank.

Like Alice, she’s curious about what’s going on behind Frank’s door and fills her time trying to follow the instructions of a rather caustic dance coach.

Young is enviously supple and radiant and draws you into her self-absorbed musings as she dances in the abandoned way of those who think they are unobserved.

Together, Rees and Young create an aura of adolescent wonder, cheekiness and invincibility, their soft, undulating mobility contrasting with the staccato movements of the created monsters (Andrew Searle, Zachary Lopez and Talitha Maslin).

These three, showing signs of amazing virtuosity, create a vision of surrealism as they attempt to animate themselves.

Their skeletons appear to become curiously distorted and the statuesque Maslin’s deft manipulations make her limbs go places where no limbs should ever go. Searle is excellent as the hercul­ean man and Lopez hilarious as the inexhaustible, demented, half-man, half woman.

As the interaction of the five becomes increasingly bizarre and hilarious, James Brown’s satisfying sound effects escalate with thunder and lightning, explosions, gurgling water and great music (Staying Alive is a highlight).

Mark Howlett’s lighting design includes sudden blackouts, engendering that atavistic fear so beloved in childhood imaginings.

This Co3 production is funny, polished and strong on the charm of the performers, each of whom shows a vivid individuality and actorly skill as well as being a consummate dancer. As with most stories created for children, its appeal is universal.