It was a dark cold night in St Leonards, there was a knock at the door, it was Gerry. Gerry is a fellow ex-Croydonian (via Ireland) and Gerry had agreed to accompany me on an spooky adventure to the middle of nowhere in the dark.
I had seen a tweet about a promenade production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at Great Fulford and I loved the idea of a play in a manor house and the opportunity to do two of my favourite things: 1. Watch some theatre and 2. Have a nose around someone else’s house.
Gerry was a bit concerned that the show might be a bit of a horror / scare experience, I explained that it would be fine on the basis that it isn’t Halloween and it’s a classic novel (I wasn’t totally convinced myself).
We set out on the A30 and soon discovered that on the A30 (of the bit of it from Exeter to Cheriton Bishop) there aren’t any street lamps – none. After a slightly nerve-wracking drive we stopped for a drink at the The Old Thatch Inn pub, a lovely little village pub which served what looked like lovely grub. I made a mental note to come back for dinner sometime.
We got back on the road, it was dark and the lanes became narrower and narrower. We took a left at the Frankenstein sign and drove down a dark pot-holed road through a farm, horses and cows peared out at us from the sheds, their eyes shining in the headlamps.
Staff in high vis jackets showed us where to park and directed us down the path. We headed into the pitch black unknown arm in arm. As we turned the corner we saw Great Fulford, huge, imposing and glowing orange against the black sky. I had this little ditty from the Rocky Horror show in my head.
The doors opened into a huge room, complete with giant fireplace and beautiful wooden frieze. Gerry told me that people actually live there, an eccentric couple self-branded the F’ing Fulfords who had a reality TV programme in their name, I made a mental note to Youtube them at a later date.
The action started with a cellist playing softly on a sofa by the fire, he was joined by a guitarist (who turned out to be the producer) and a lady playing the violin (who turned out to be our Elizabeth), as we sipped our wine and enjoyed the music Victor’s father entered and set the scene for us. Four of swords describe their production as a “visceral, terrifying adaptation of the Gothic classic.. promenade, immersive, and feature creepy, spooktastic.”
It was definitely immersive, the actors invited us into their world and walked us through the play seamlessly. Scenes unfolded in front of our eyes and as the they ended, doors opened and we were ushered gently and quietly into position in the next room. The live performance was interspersed with film projections which took the audience deeper into the story. Victor’s madness was electric, his terror palpable and as he brought his monster to life in the lab the audience jumped three feet in the air.
Frankenstein’s creature himself was the perfect combination of terrifying and terribly sad. The scene where he reveals himself to blind De Lacey took place through a curtain of gauze with pages of the bible stuck to it. As we peered through the gaps in the pages, we were as separated from the family scene in the cottage as the creature was himself. We could feel his isolation and watched him desperately seek friendship, to only get beaten and chased away.
I just wanted to give him a cuddle (from a distance using somebody else’s body). I felt for him and when he asked Victor to create him a lady monster I really wanted Victor to do it so that the creature wouldn’t be lonely. Most of all, I really wanted the show to go upstairs so that I have a nose.
Elizabeth is killed by the creature on their wedding night and we are told that Victor’s father dies of a broken heart and Victor has left to track the creature and avenge his family. We are taken upstairs to the North, and in a freezing cold, dark and smoky room where Victor is dying by a fire surrounded by the ghosts of his loved ones playing haunting melodies on their instruments. On his death, the creature comes out from the shadows finds him and holds him, in love and in hate. He is after all, his creator.
The setting was inspired, the performances were fabulous – although, I wanted to relate to Elizabeth more and I really wanted to take out her nose piercing.
Four of Swords next production is Jekyll and Hyde at Poltimore House, 13th April – 23rd April, and, if Frankenstein was anything to go by I can highly recommend it. Tickets can be found here.
Twitter came up trumps again!
Four Of Swords, if you’re reading this, how about an immersive production of the Rocky Horror show?