After the departure in style of Cliffhanger! (2001 onwards) our next outdoor show, Frankenstein was truly something completely different. It was an absurd mixture of black humour and Gothic silliness but with a poignant ending that contrasted sharply with the style of the rest of the show.
We took our inspiration not from Mary Shelly’s original novel, but from the classic Boris Karloff film of 1931. It is in this film that ‘the Creature’ is chased into a windmill that is then set on fire. Wouldn’t it be good, we thought, to have a windmill that was strong enough to lift us off the ground on its sails – Buster Keaton never did THIS stunt!
True to our troubadour style, our Dr Frankenstein was a travelling showman who wanted to exhibit his ‘creation’ in his freak show. His show also included two magical illusions, the Zig-Zag Lady (a fantastic illusion made famous in the 1950s) and also a sword box, expertly made by Russell, and later to be used again in The Lion Tamer and The Strongman.
We commissioned Graham Jobbins, a Cornish artist and sculptor, to make the windmill – and what an amazing job he did. He built the windmill sails that were turned by a robust electric motor sitting on 4m high platform supported by scaffold bars, under which we constructed a raised stage. The set was a thing of beauty, but took several hours to construct and dismantle (and was also extremely heavy!) which was a factor in our decision to tour for just two seasons.
Once again, David Twomlow was our devising director and then Mikey Martins added ideas for the second year. The fantastic music and songs were written by Jim McCormack and performed in 2004 by jazz musician James Oecken and the following year by Matthew Robins – his second stint with our company and featured in the archive video. Matthew and his friend Tim Spooner also both helped with design and prop making. Unnoticed by audiences (except by the most eagle-eyed) Matthew and Tim made sure that the books in Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory were all to do with sewing, needlework and embroidery!
Redruth artist Helen Tiley did a beautiful job painting the set and with costume design, and we commissioned a Camborne artist (whose name I cannot trace – my apologies) to make a clever, quick-fitting half-mask for ‘the Creature’.