Channel 4 investigates the myth of Frankenstein


Frankenstein, The National Theatre

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the first and greatest myth of the modern scientific age, has like all enduring masterpieces, touched a nerve at critical points of human progress. Frankenstein haunts our age of global anxiety and unprecedented scientific experimentation like never before.

Channel 4 has commissioned Lone Star Productions in collaboration with the National Theatre to make a one-off documentary, Frankenstein: The Making of a Myth (1x60), that looks at myth of Frankenstein through the prism of Danny Boyle's sensational new sell-out production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre, featuring exclusive access to rehearsals and interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature, and with Danny Boyle and writer Nick Dear. It will be broadcast on Channel 4 over the summer.

Boyle and Dear have crafted an audacious new interpretation which restores Mary Shelley's radical emphasis on the Creature's point of view. Her story draws directly on her own encounter with victims of the slave trade, her fascination with the scientific advances that lit up the dark days of the industrial revolution, and her passionate engagement with the revolutionary ideas that were her philosopher parents' legacy. These themes will be explored by contributors including Mary Shelley's biographer Miranda Seymour and the science writer and broadcaster Philip Ball, whose new book Unnatural is the definitive account of the science behind the Frankenstein myth: ‘The idea of creating people is seen as the ultimate unnatural act, and it raises all sorts of quite specific questions, about the status of the created being, whether, for example Frankenstein's creature has a soul, and what that means? And those really are the questions I think we're now grappling with.'

In a world more concerned than ever with debates about man overreaching himself, the perils of intervention in nature that animate Shelley's shocking ethical parable continue to keep Frankenstein in morally panicked headlines. Frankenstein: The Making of a Myth will explore the recurrent encounter of a powerful myth and our quest for understanding the nature of life itself.

Speaking about the myth of Frankenstein, Danny Boyle said: ‘It's timeless and will be here long after we're all gone. The issues it raises can swim into focus either in a very specific way like genetics, or cloning, or in a very general way about what man is capable of and what are the repercussions of that.'

Tabitha Jackson, Commissioning Editor, Arts, said: ‘What makes great literature 'great' is that it captures a truth about humanity that can still speak to us across the generations. Danny Boyle's recent re-imagining of Frankenstein gives us a great excuse to interrogate what that truth is, and also allows us to have some real fun with some of the classic interpretations of Frankenstein and his monster.'

Martin Rosenbaum, Producer Lone Star Productions said: ‘Danny Boyle has wanted to bring Frankenstein to the stage for over a decade and he now does so as a visionary Oscar-winning film director with a dazzling and uncompromising reputation. Boyle and his stars gave us exclusive interviews, and privileged access to the rehearsal process.'

Frankenstein: The Making of a Myth will be directed by Adam Low, winner of the 2010 Grierson Award for Best Documentary of the Arts for Arena: T.S.Eliot and the 2010 Royal Television Society Award for Best Arts Documentary for Alan Bennett and the Habit of Art, a Lone Star/National Theatre Co-production for More4.

Through its digital and broadcast initiatives, including National Theatre Live cinema broadcasts, the National aims to create greater access to its work and encourage deep engagement with the repertoire and the creative processes behind its productions.

Frankenstein: The Making of a Myth represents an ongoing relationship between Channel 4 and the National that began with the National's documentary of its west end hit, Making War Horse, and was followed by the highly acclaimed Alan Bennett and the Habit of Art, also in collaboration with Lone Star Productions.

David Sabel, Head of Digital Media at the National Theatre said: ‘Through our digital and broadcast initiatives, we are interested in offering audiences greater insight into the historical, cultural and social dimensions unlocked by the work created on our stages.'

Credits: A Lone Star Productions/National Theatre Co-Production. Director: Adam Low. Producer: Martin Rosenbaum. Executive Producers: David Sabel, Toby Coffey. Commissioning Editor for Channel 4: Tabitha Jackson.


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