Review: Frankenstein @ Tobacco Factory ★★★★★


By Milan Perera, Arts Writer

The issue with some theatre is that shortcomings of the production are sometimes glossed over by a state-of-the-art set or the sheer reputation of the director. Here is a production where the theatre and musical elements are stripped down to their bare elements (yes... literally). There is nowhere to hide.

At Bristol's Tobacco Factory Theatre, the dynamic Living Spit theatre company cast their unique brand of magic on Mary Shelley’s timeless classic, Frankenstein.

The North Somerset based troupe is fronted by actors Howard Coggins and Stu McLoughlin, who live up to the adage of entertainers of a bygone era for their unparalleled skill in acting, singing, playing multiple instruments and comedic innovation.

Stu Mcloughlin in Frankenstein at Salisbury Playhouse | Image Courtesy of: The Other Richard

Howard Coggins plays the titular role of Dr. Victor Frankenstein while Stu McLoughlin has the unenviable task of changing into costumes multiple times to play alternating roles - ranging from Elizabeth Frankenstein to the much-maligned Frankenstein Monster himself.

The story begins in Geneva, Switzerland in 1823. Young Victor Frankenstein says farewell to his family as he heads off to university. A pang of sadness creeps over Frankenstein as he remembers his deceased mother, who no doubt would have been extremely proud of him. Alas, there is no way to bring her back to life. Or is there?

At the intimate Bristol Tobacco Factory Theatre, the audiences were treated to a spectacle which pulled out all the stops. In the tightly packed 100-minute production, the duo, Howard, and Stu carried out countless set switches and costume changes; all of this on top of the acting and singing. The operation progressed with the precision of a Swiss-made wristwatch, where the actors strummed guitars, interacted with the crowd, sang their numbers, and recited the script without missing a beat.

The script is repleted with rhyming couplets, innocent innuendos, double entendre, and punch lines. The songs were crowd-pleasers, where the audiences joined the action with enthusiastic clapping. They were catchy and memorable; the type you start tapping your feet to.

There were signs at the theatre entrance warning of nudity. Yes, there was ample amount of nudity but all within the idiom of good humour - not a single line was uttered that would make one blush. All of the roles were played by Coggins and McLoughlin, except the bride of the Monster. This role was reserved for one lucky member of the audience. Marie from Bristol stepped up to the challenge and played the role with aplomb. Her contribution was duly rewarded with a goody bag of Living Spit ephemera.

The Living Spit duo took their curtain call after bursting into an impromptu guitar ‘n’ bass duet much to the delight of the audience who were thoroughly entertained all night.

Featured Image: The Other Richard

Have you attended a performance at Tobacco Factory yet?