Frankenstein, National Theatre Live – Review (Spoiler Free)

National Theatre LiveCumberbatch is outstanding as Frankenstein’s Monster, in a production that’s vivid and daring.

I’ve thought of Benedict Cumberbatch as being a very talented actor for a number of years, and so I had high hopes when I went in to see him in this production last week, but I wasn’t expecting to be quite so impressed by the level of sheer excellence that he reaches here. We are so used to seeing him play intelligent characters who use words as their primary method of communication, that it comes as a shock to see him using physical language so eloquently in the initial stages of the play. The opening in particular is just a treat to watch.

This production was first put on back in 2011, and Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated night by night in the roles of Frankenstein and his creation. It was also then broadcasted out to cinema screens, and the overwhelming demand meant that it was rescreened last year, and now again recently. I would have loved to have seen it live, but the filmed version still makes for a very visceral and exciting experience. Danny Boyle directed this play just before taking on the London Olympics, and it really shows here with the dramatic confidence that seeps throughout the production. Blinding flashes of light, and guttural music really grab you by the throat, and demand your attention.


I haven’t forgotten Jonny Lee Miller either, he is impressive as Frankenstein, and is only slightly dulled by the intensity of Cumberbatch’s performance. As my friend remarked, the piece belongs to whoever plays the creature anyway, and the two actors do feed of each other very well here. Miller is supposed to be excellent in the role of the creature himself, and that’s something that I would very much like to see if I ever have the chance.

What does let the production down just a little bit is its script. It’s certainly not bad, but there is a slightly lagging section around the middle where the script can’t keep up with the performances and direction which have been applied to it. Regardless, it’s mostly a great example of boiling down a novel to its core without sacrificing the overall themes, the direction is impressive, and the lead performances excellent. You also have roles played by Skyfall’s Naomie Harris and Harry Potter’s George Harris which only serve as more reasons to check this one out if its ever broadcast again!


What is the film’s greatest strength?
There are so many excellent elements to this one, but it has to go to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Its greatest weakness?
The script, but that certainly isn’t shabby either.

Would I see it again?
Without a doubt. I want to recommend this to everyone, bring people to see it with me, and if possible see both versions at some point in the future!

So have you seen this? Maybe you saw it with the roles reversed? Let me know by typing out a comment below!


  1. I’m definitely going to have to look for this on the screen or wherever. Love Boyle. Love Cumberbatch. Love Miller. It sounds great! Glad you got to see it!

    1. Oh you should absolutely try to catch it if they show it again! Do you know the novel? This version is pretty true to that, rather than the different movie versions of Frankenstein.

  2. Great review of a terrific production. I really would recommend seeing Jonny Lee Miller in the role of the creature. As your friend said, whoever is playing the creation is the star of the show…

    1. Cheers Chalbo! I certainly hope I get the chance to! That friend of mine certainly talks a lot of sense doesn’t he!

  3. Great review. I got to see this a few months ago when somebody snuck it online (has since been taken down sadly). No cinemas around me are showing this wonderful play which I would love to see again in better quality than what was online. Still, bad video quality aside, I too thought it was an excellent adaptaion of the Frankenstein story and as always Benedict Cumberbatch gave a masterful performance. What I wouldn’t give to be able to see him live on a stage.

    1. Thanks very much, oh I hope you get to see it in the cinema in future. It just adds to the intensity of certain scenes in ways which I wouldn’t have thought would have had the same effect at home. Live on stage would be even better like you say!

  4. Awesome. Very interesting! Wasn’t aware of this project.

    1. Cheers man, I’m glad that I could tell you about it then. My advice is to see it if you ever get a chance!

      1. I definitely will!

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