We know the story: a natural science student who lived in a loving and enlightened family of the 1800s, one day decides to create a human being. To do this he studies a lot, he goes so far as to kill animals, to recover anatomical parts of other human beings. And in the end he succeeds: the human being is BORN. Contrary to what is commonly believed (due to film, television and narrative reinterpretations) the student is not attracted to the boundary that separates life from death – he does not want to bring a dead body back to life – but by the secret of life itself: the spark that lights up when we first wake up. He is forced to deal with death, he does not want it, because he has no other way to find the material he needs for the company: unlike the woman who creates the form of the human being from pure cells (i.e. starting from his/her absence), the student is forced to create by the CHAOS OF PRESENCE.
The experiment does not fail: it is a resounding success. The Creature is extraordinarily beautiful and strong, very high, superhuman. The creator, who wanted her so much, who was willing to give and risk for her so much, will be incredibly happy, we think. But no. For some obscure reason, instead of doing what we would expect, toasting with the wonderful Creature the medical triumph of an „artificial birth“ despairs. He is afraid of it. He is horrified by it.
Two things caught my attention. The first is the definition of „creation from Chaos“: the doctor does not create something from its absence (like a woman) but from the overflow, that is, from hyper-presence. The second is the real mystery of the novel: why Frankeinstein reacts as he does, why he is not proud of his creation. While I was reading in many places I felt a sensation of annoyance, the novel unnerved me, there was something in the characters (in the doctor, above all, but also the Creature) that irritated me deeply. I said to myself: what kind of characters did Mary Shelley create? They are superficial, weak, and above all incredibly repressed, fragile.
The more Mary tried in the course of the tale to ennoble her creatures (the doctor is described as a wonderful, romantic, charming, noble being, who charms all who know him; the Creature as a kind of Milton-like Satan) the more I was nervous because I found them faint, incomplete, with enormous unexpressed potential, and Mary herself irritated me, her, whose mind seemed far more promising than the results achieved, trapped inside the romantic stereotypes of her intellectual masters, of her male auctoritas: Percy Shelley, Byron, Milton etc. Why?
I connected the dots to respond to my annoyance (which was as strange as the doctor’s: who would have expected that reading Frankeinstein would have felt the same ailment as the protagonist in the face of the unexpected shape of his creature? He and I equally incomprehensible) and started to read the story of the „girl who wrote Frankenstein“, her introductions, her repeated interventions over the years to deny, downsize, soften the literary significance of her work, her own skills as a writer, diminish her own interest to be a writer, almost as if it were something she didn’t really care about, secondary to her happy role as a widowed wife and mother.
She is the one who writes in several places that she is unable to create from nothing like her illustrious fellow poets – and as a true artist should do – but only from chaos, from the overflow: she claims not to have invented the story but stolen from conversations between the great Percy Shelley and the great Byron (they, yes, true geniuses, creators recognized by the world who can show their creations in the open) scribbling in secret like a good diligent student; she is the one who says that it was her husband who wanted it to become a novel (while she would have contented herself with a short novel written for fun on a stormy night); she’s the one who says she didn’t invent the Creature – it appeared to her in a dream in her bedroom (as happens to the doctor in the novel) staring at her with yellow eyes and almost forcing her to write about it. In short: Mary should be happy with the masterpiece she wrote and she instead does everything to diminish her motherhood. Undoubtedly it is a very strange birth for a nineteen-year-old girl of the early 1800s. Many intellectuals ask her in politely inquisitive tones why a young woman of good family of her age harbored such „monstrous fantasies“ within her.
And I understand that this submissiveness – or rather partial denial, moderation, subtle conflict between passion and morality, between the claiming instinct and social common sense, between vision of the future and cultural habit – is an aspect that characterized his whole life (in addition to the impressive number of deaths: many children, all dead but one, parents, loves, friends, husbands, lovers, rivals, all dead long before her. Continuously).
The answer? The Creature is the Book.
The book is a vision of the future: expression of female creativity free to reach the same degrees as male creativity. In writing her masterpiece Mary saw a potential of herself, a new feminine in which our society today recognizes itself (or which in some countries struggles to recognize). Speaking of Frankeinstein it has always been said that it is a dystopian story: the future without God, the man who artificially creates beings that he is no longer able to control, or to whom he does not want to recognize social dignity.
And instead Mary is the daughter of two first-rate progressives: William Godwin, politician and philosopher who fought in times when it was very rare for the rights of all social classes and for the concept of equality, and Mary Wollstonecraft, writer and nationally renowned feminist intellectual when it was far from obvious. And therefore Mary can only write a Great Utopia: that of the future that we are already living in part, in part we are on the path to create. The realization of an era in which male and female are no longer classifying categories of intellectual faculties and potentialities, in which diversity is no longer perceived as monstrous, in which a new and better model of human being does not frighten us, even if to achieve it we have to sacrifice many things and study a lot – like our Frankeinstein. The Creature was beautiful: the doctor was wrong when he was afraid of it. Because he was afraid of himself, his best and his future.
The novel has a structure that lends itself to dramaturgical games of interaction with the public, based on the viewer’s choice. The story immediately presents itself as a „moral case“: an explorer puts a dying man on a ship. He immediately feels a desire for friendship and is fascinated by it. The man tells him a controversial story. The explorer is led to embrace the point of view of his interlocutor. Until at a certain point the story of the Creature intervenes and it overturns some of the moral elements of the story. The explorer is like the spectator: his feelings fluctuate according to how the story is presented.
The show will develop on 3 different dramaturgical levels:
In some moments the spectators will be allowed to decide whether to observe the scene from the point of view of Mary-Frankeinstein or Mary-Creature, or they could have access to some memories of the characters, selecting the memories or thoughts the wants to access. The choice of the point of view of the story implies a position taken by the public or by the individual spectator on the emotionality of the character in whose motivations they identify. Choosing to see the story from Frankeinstein’s or the Creature’s point of view actually means choosing which conflict represents us most, or which of the two we believe in. Having the possibility during the show to change one’s mind, by accessing the memories or thoughts of the other, means experimenting with fluid judgment criteria, which leave the possibility of evolving one’s opinion on events or on others and overturning it if necessary. The spectator will have the role that the explorer has in the novel: witness and guardian of the story. The show could develop the theme of choice, the criticality of the judgment, in several points, forcing spectators to continually question their moral point of view on the story. How? Choosing from which point of view to look at the story.
WORK ON VIRTUALITY
It would be interesting to work on multiple visual levels:
1) the vision inside the theater (one or more performers on stage live);
2) alternative visions that flank the main one, worlds that enter the theater (3D glasses, holograms) continuously, the „environmental alternatives“ should appear and dialogue with the bodies in presence. Some of the alternatives chosen by the spectators can be exclusively virtual (with actors and locations recorded);
3) It would be interesting to experiment with the perspective games given by the videos:
– live performers who, through perspective effects, seem to be inserted or converse with situations and virtual interpreters;
– Unexpected angles from which to look at the story;
Eg: The spectators look up and on the ceiling of the theater appear videos with dialogues of the characters shot from below. Underwater footage that gives viewers the feeling of immersion.
– Playing on the perceptions of spaces, to elaborate the great natural settings of the novel: expanses of ice, ships, very high mountains, lakes;
4) Use of audio tools to create intimate relationships with the chosen character (eg. Voices and memories that go into each spectator’s wireless headphones based on a preliminary choice).