Mary Shelley’s sci-fi classic gets a modern twist at the Southward Playhouse in London. The central stage with audience placed either side is the first indicator of the unusual performance that is to come upon entering.

The initial perception amongst the audience was that of confusion. Indeed, as a modern adaptation of the book, it does stray somewhat from the source material. The monster becomes artificial intelligence and Victor Frankenstein becomes Victoria Frankenstein.

One element of adaptation that I particularly liked was the characters communication. While in the novel, many plot points are conveyed via letters, the play makes its characters facetime, play clips and pause to add further monologues. It’s no doubt a clever creative decision, but it does lead to a degree of confusion at the beginning. Coupled with a relatively short first act, the mood upon leaving the theatre for the interval was not that positive. It felt confusing and a little try hard.

However, this perception would change in the second half. Upon re-entering the theatre, which we had been asked to get out of, virtual reality headsets had been placed underneath our seats. This naturally led to a great deal of excitement and the second half was much more engaging. Having established the premise, the element of confusion at the beginning was gone and the story ran much smoother.

The use of the headsets only occurred right at the end of the play, where key parts of the story were repeated with the virtual reality technology. It was no doubt a clever idea to incorporate such modern technology in a play about the threat of new technology, but I would have preferred if it had in some way been incorporated into the play rather than acting as an added feature at the end.

Fans of the original may think the play strays too far from the 19th Century novel or appreciate the modern adaptation of key themes. Either way, a familiarity with the original story is necessary to truly appreciate an innovative re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece.