TO DESCRIBE an actor’s work as “corpse-like” might normally be thought a grave insult.
But when the thesp in question is playing a dead man walking — or rather, shambling — it becomes the highest praise.
Ed Gaughan is every bit the decomposing body in this clever reanimation of Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein.
His palsied gait and slurred speech seem every bit like someone who is learning to use his parts again, after a long spell on a slab.
But he quickly grows bolder in mind and body, yearning to rejoin a world which shows him nothing but contempt and fear.
His creator, Victoria Frankenstein (Polly Frame, pictured) is equally convincing, complicated and misunderstood.
She left home to become a doctor, despite the expectations of her aged and widowed father.
Cold and clinical, she has the common good at heart, but her methods reduce individual lives to near-worthlessness.
She too grows and changes — but not before tragedy strikes the Frankenstein family.
The direction of this horror homage is spine-tingling.
Even when we know the creature is about to animate, his sudden grasping sends a flinch rippling around the audience.
When he rips a scalpel from the doctor’s hand and threatens to slash her arm — mimicking her experiments on him — her whimpering terror is contagious.
This tension is only amplified by moments of unexpected comedy, as when the creature shambles into the Frankenstein home.
Spotted by Victoria’s sister Elizabeth (Victoria Elliott), he apes an elderly gentleman’s clipped tones and shuffling gait, before lumbering out of sight.
The set is a clever array of translucent mirrors, lighting and darkening to reveal and obscure the laborotory.
At one point the creature peers into its reflection, asking Victoria: “You did this, didn’t you?”
It’s a mirror held up to the entire audience, asking us to examine our attitudes and preconceptions.
Dr Frankenstein is at the Crucible until Saturday, March 25. For more information, see www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.
Dr Frankenstein is at Sheffield Crucible until Saturday
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