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Frankenstein is back, this time with puppets

Jupiter Theatre production of Frankenstein, now on at West Village Theatre through Apr.2 Jupiter Theatre production of Frankenstein, now on at West Village Theatre through Apr.2
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Calgary's Andrew G. Cooper is taking the storytelling leap from Fraggle Rock to Frankenstein.

The Calgary playwright, director and puppeteer, who is the artistic director of Jupiter Theatre, is the driving force behind a new adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic.

This Frankenstein features a blend of people, puppets, shadow, mask, movement and provocative design to bring the creature– played by Mike Tan – to theatrical life.

For Cooper, the project has been a long time gestating in his imagination.

"I've loved the story of Frankenstein ever since I read it during my undergrad," he said in an email interview with CTV News. "I think I've always been drawn to monsters and outcasts, even from a young age. I certainly have felt like an outcast in the past, and I think most people feel that way from time to time.

"The story is also just wonderful," he adds. "It's epic, thrilling, romantic, and even after 200 years, it's still revealing things about humanity in new ways."

ADAPTATION STAYS TRUE TO ORIGINAL

Cooper adapted Shelley's novel for the stage in a way that he says remains faithful to the original.

"If people are familiar with the book, they'll love this play," he said. "I really focused on two elements when writing the script. The first is giving more weight to the story of the creature.

"The play begins with his creation when he comes to life, and we follow him until the end of his journey. The second was the supernatural elements, like the ghosts and the idea of destiny, that are found throughout Mary Shelley's story. There's something so compelling about these elements and I've never seen them addressed in another adaptation before."

The Monster in Jupiter Theatre's production of Frankenstein is played by Mike Tan (Photo courtesy Jupiter Theatre)

USING PUPPETS

Before COVID-19 struck in 2020, Alberta Ballet's Jean Grand-Maitre gave audiences a Frankenstein unlike any other – a Frankenstein that danced.

How do puppets impact Jupiter's Frankenstein?

"I love using puppets in storytelling!" he says. "Puppets allow us to take audiences places we wouldn't otherwise be able to go on stage.

"One of our characters is entirely played by a puppet, and we do some fun things with him that would be dangerous for a human actor to do," he adds. "The puppets also give us a gateway into the supernatural world in fun and interesting ways. I think puppetry helps ignite people's imaginations and engages them in a unique way.

"We play with traditional rod puppetry, shadow puppetry, and mask work throughout the show and each of them adds a new layer to the story."

That theatricality he says blends nicely with Tan's performance of the creature.

Mike Tan takes a wonderful journey of the creature and moves through the role with empathy, curiosity and strength.

"As an actor," he says, "he guides us from the creature's 'birth', essentially being a blank slate, to becoming filled with a thirst for revenge. It's a captivating ride.

"Like with many of the other elements of the show, we're focusing more on the original text, so our creature isn't like the ones from the Universal Pictures or Hammer Horror movies."

Cast of Jupiter Theatre's Frankenstein.(Photo courtesy Jupiter Theatre)

A LOVE STORY

What Cooper has left in is the essence of the original.

"Our version of Frankenstein is, at its heart, a love story. It's a love story between Victor (the creator) and Elizabeth, but it's also a love story between Victor and his creation in a way. The play is a thriller too, with elements of horror, and I'm hoping people will leave the theatre with a sense of wonder. I really want to show audiences something they haven't seen before on stage."

Jupiter Theatre's Frankenstein is part of the Festival of Animated Objects. It's on at the West Village Theatre on 10th Avenue through Apr. 2.

Matinee performances are pay-what-you-can.

For ticket information, go here.

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