The Monster Within
William Yeoman, The West Australian
William Yeoman: After a sell-out season, the dynamic stage adaptation Frank Enstein returns to the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre of WA from next month. Made by the award-winning creative duo of Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood from QLD-based company The Farm in collaboration with WA’s flagship contemporary dance company Co3 Australia, Frank Enstein is a hilarious, poignant tale of self-acceptance in this classic story with a twist. Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel, this revival of Frank Enstein features two young performers in the lead roles formerly played by adults. 16 year old William Rees takes on the title of Frank, while 15-year-old local dancer, and Act-Belong-Commit Co:Youth Ensemble member Luci Young makes her professional debut in the role of Liz. Liz joins us in the studio today along with Co3 Australia dancer Andrew Searle, who reprises his role as one of the monsters Frank brings to life. Now perhaps we could start today by telling a little bit more about your respective roles, we’ll start with you Luci.
Luci Young: Well, I play Liz in the show, who’s a very shy, well she comes across as being shy, but she’s actually quite outgoing once you get to know her.
William Yeoman: Thinking about shy, I believe this is your first professional engagement, how are you feeling about all that how’s it all going?
Luci Young: It can be intimidating, but it’s been the most amazing experience overall.
William Yeoman: Okay, what’s it like working with old hands like Andrew here?
Luci Young: Just incredible, the dancers are so amazing and inspirational, you just look at them and you think ‘ah, I want to be like that’.
William Yeoman: Fantastic, and Andrew what’s it like coming back for a second run?
Andrew Searle: It’s great, I’m really excited that myself, Zac and Talitha get a second chance to get our teeth into this show. I think it’s a really fun experience from the inside and to watch for the audience as well.
William Yeoman: It seems to me that the monster, who is traditionally one creature, has been spread amongst three different roles can you tell us about those roles?
Andrew Searle: Sure, so the fun part for us is it’s like three different personalities. I start off the trend so I’m a traditional, original creation, but the fun thing is there’s a take on the different parts used to make up me which end up creating somebody else, and just a general, crazy, very needy character as well. So amongst the three of us we put together one very, very crazy monster personality, but it’s a nice take on someone who has a desire for a whole bunch of different friends that manifests in three separate physical beings.
William Yeoman: I believe it’s also very funny as well.
Andrew Searle: Yes, Gavin and Grayson are very witty boys. They like to make a lot of references to things that they enjoy. It was really fun to get a lot of gags in there and to try some silly things that you definitely can put on the cutting table but also incorporate into the show.
William Yeoman: Luci has that been a challenge for you, keeping a straight face?
Luci Young: Yeah, definitely. That awkward personality that I was talking about with Liz is one of the main points of the humour, which is very funny.
William Yeoman: Is dance something you’ve always been interested in as a very young girl?
Luci Young: Yeah, I was always moving when I was younger, but I cracked down into it when I was about nine.
William Yeoman: Now for both of you this is obviously what you would call contemporary dance and in many ways contemporary still gets a bad rap so, maybe for new audiences, can they expect something that’s very accessible or is it going to take a little bit of work?
Andrew Searle: I think this show particularly is a physical theatre work as well so it’s a bit more accessible in a sense of not necessarily just being dance. In terms of the bad rap thing I suppose yeah contemporary dance is just like contemporary art, some people really enjoy it, some people find it a bit too intense. This show is definitely something very accessible, it’s driven by that original story which everybody knows in some form. Frankenstein has gone from dramatic theatre stage productions to classic animation these days so I think as a storyline I think everyone has some sort of connection to it, and it’s nice to put a totally new spin on it. I think from the original performance we did we had some great feedback that just meant everybody got something out of the performance, and if it was just one of us or if it was all of us, there was something for everybody inside of that which we couldn’t have anticipated. It’s cool to have another go at that and for Luci and Will to be involved this time makes it really, really exciting.
William Yeoman: It’s both old and new at the same time, I guess?
Andrew Searle: Yes, for sure.
William Yeoman: Now Luci, were you familiar with the story at all, did you study the text at school for example, or have you seen any of the other adaptations or even this one indeed last year?
Luci Young: Yeah, I did see the show last year, a few times actually, but in terms of studying the text I just knew the general story like most people would.
William Yeoman: One last question for both of you, why is this story so timeless, and how does it connect to, particularly young people in today’s society when there’s so much about change and identity and those kinds of issues?
Luci Young: I think the fantasy of it all, being able to draw it into reality makes it really exciting.
Andrew Searle: I think in general, people still strive to connect, it’s just this basic human primal need. I think this story is still about one individual requiring that from life. So I think what’s fun is that it’s not serious, it’s not delving into anything political or anything which is nice, but also just talking to that human instinct, I think that never goes away, from the original to now I think t’s still part of our social structures and what we all want from life. That’s what’s made it so timeless, and it’s fun for us to be doing something that, again, is a really fun, modern take on a classic story.
William Yeoman: Fantastic. Well thank you so much for joining us, it’s been a great pleasure talking to you both, good luck for the show. For those of you who didn’t see the show last year, don’t miss it at the State Theatre Centre this time round.
After a sell-out 2017 season, Frank Enstein returns to the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre of WA.
Made by the award-winning creative duo of Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood from QLD-based company The Farm in collaboration with WA’s flagship contemporary dance company Co3 Australia, Frank Enstein is a hilarious, poignant tale of self-acceptance in this classic story with a twist.
Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel, this revival of Frank Enstein features two young performers in the lead roles formerly played by adults.
William Rees, 16, takes on the title role of Frank bringing his unique experience of performing with a disability to the character. 15-year-old local dancer, and Act-Belong-Commit Co:Youth Ensemble member Luci Young makes her professional debut in the role of Liz.
Co3 Australia dancers Andrew Searle, Talitha Maslin and Zachary Lopez reprise their roles as the monsters frank brings to life.
“Frank Enstein is based on themes from the original story around self-acceptance and the courage to accept the way that you are – it’s about bringing life to inanimate matter,” Co3 Australia’s Artistic Director Raewyn Hill explains.
According to Hill, The Farm desires to create works that are based on universal themes that connect with everyone.
“I really believe that this work matters because I think that we all know the story about the battle with self,” she says. “I think that that’s a universal story – the struggle to fit in, the struggle to find place and the struggle to find worth – and I think it’s a story that speaks to all of us. I guess, for me, that’s really why I was attracted to being part of bringing this work to life.”
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been adapted in many forms since it was first published in 1818 and a lot have been bleak and sinister. Hill says this reworking includes a lot of humour.
“I’m in complete awe with Gavin and Grayson, that they can tackle some pretty hard themes – like I say, this work matters because it talks to all of us about this concept of struggle and the concept of accepting self – and the absolute beauty with them as makers is that they can tackle a very different thing like this and find humour in it and present it in a way that is perhaps not as confronting,” she says.
“So there’s an accessibility to their work which comes about through balancing the light and the dark – they are absolute masters at it.”
Hill believes it’s a work that connects with the child in all of us, and the balanced and broad appeal of the show is also helping a younger generation connect with contemporary dance.
“It speaks to children and it speaks to adults because I guess as we grow up we forget that … we still hold that child in us and we forget that that child needs to be nurtured as well,” she explains.
“It is a work, I think it’s from eight years up and it speaks to everybody.”
Frank Enstein opens at the Heath Ledger Theatre, at the State Theatre Centre April 11 until April 15. Book through Perth Theatre Trust: tickets.ptt.wa.gov.au