Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019
"The shows themselves have become more technically complex — we’ve added more challenging forms of puppetry and projection since we started, and the music has become more ambitious as well."
MANUEL CINEMA'S FRANKENSTEIN | Underbelly Bristo Square (McEwan Hall)
31st July – 26th August (not 12th), 14:45 | TICKETS
Manual Cinema uses overhead projectors, over 500 shadow puppets, actors in silhouette, and live music to bring this enthralling production to life as a piece of live cinema.
Hi Drew thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything going?
It’s going well!
How does it feel to be bringing Frankenstein to Edinburgh Fringe for its UK Premiere?
It’s very exciting.
Are there any nerves ahead of your Fringe run?
It’s our third time at the Fringe and the nerves never go away.
Can you tell me a little bit about Frankenstein, what can we expect?
Frankenstein is loosely adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel about a young student who brings a corpse to life. The story is told using a pastiche of shadow puppets, tabletop puppets, and projection — it looks a bit like an animated film that’s made live in front of you. There’s no dialogue whatsoever; all of the storytelling is accomplished through imagery and a rich, immersive original score that’s performed live.
What was it about Mary Shelley’s classic gothic story that interested you so much?
Frankenstein is a story about the animation of lifeless matter, and so it seemed to be a natural fit for us as puppeteers. Then we began to research Mary Shelley herself, and we learned that she had an infant child that died shortly before she wrote Frankenstein. So we started to think about Frankenstein in the context of birth, pregnancy, and motherhood, and that seemed like an exciting new direction in which to explore a well-known story.
"That was when we realized that we’d accidentally founded a company."
What have been the biggest challenges bringing this show to life?
The script has gone through a number of permutations! We decided early on to include Mary Shelley herself in the show and to use her like a frame for Victor and the Creature’s story. It’s been challenging to figure out how much of Mary’s biography to depict, but I’m quite happy with where we’ve landed.
Due to the intricacy of a show like this does much change once you’re doing a festival run or do you try to avoid making too many changes?
The show has been seen in both Chicago and New York, but we’re making a good deal of changes to it right before we come to Edinburgh, so the show will be fresh on arrival. I imagine it will continue evolving through the festival run!
Describe this show in 3 words?
Haunting! Beguiling. Spectacular!
How did Manuel Cinema come about?
There were five of us who founded the company in 2010, all interdisciplinary artists in theatre, visual art, and music. We got together when one of our members, Julia (who plays the Creature in Frankenstein) found an old school overhead projector in her garage. She invited all of us to make a shadow puppet show with her. At first, it was just a lark, but then the first show went so well that people began asking us about our next show. That was when we realized that we’d accidentally founded a company.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
I didn’t grow up with theatre but I did watch a great deal of film and animation, including the old Universal Studios monster movies. I thought I would be a visual artist, but then I discovered theatre in high school when I was hired to paint backdrops for the drama department. I’ve been working in theatre ever since!
How much your approach to the shows you create changed since you started?
The shows themselves have become more technically complex — we’ve added more challenging forms of puppetry and projection since we started, and the music has become more ambitious as well. (In this show, we have four musicians who are joined by an ensemble of robots who play the percussion). But the fundamentals of storytelling and character have remained the same.
What has been the best piece of advice you've been given?
“Don’t start a theatre company.”
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow theatre maker?
Don’t start a theatre company. (Unless you absolutely have to.)
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this show?
A new perspective on an old story!