Major Project · Semester Two

The Atmospheric Ambitions of Frankenstein

(Figure 1.1 Shown above – some production stills from the second trailer release for the National Theatre Live production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle.) 

The production of Frankenstein incorporated various elements of design and sound to create the impression of reestablishment within the natural world. Danny Boyle’s adaptation of the classic tale of Frankenstein introduces the monster as a man, sewn back together before being introduced to surroundings that have long since been forgotten. Whilst his memory is that of a fully grown adult, his body discovers new sensations and experiences in a fresh perspective that is reminiscent of a child’s impression of the world.

The sensory world of Frankenstein is a very important element of the production. It is key to the character development, implementing the importance of environment from the very beginning. Frankenstein’s monster learns through sight, touch, smell and sound – all of these elements have been carefully choreographed to illustrate the process of comprehension that influences the character’s decisions.

In particular, the strong use of colour allows the audience to connect with Frankenstein’s monster from a human perspective – a creative choice was determined that he should resemble man separating from the original text to explore this primitive state of human existence. Similarly to the reconstruction of his body, the monster’s reintroduction to society is aided somewhat by the ability for society to identify familiar traits within their own lives. The incorporation of flesh-like colours – strong use of orange, red and yellow tones – evokes the connotation to life. Frankenstein’s monster is living flesh that breaks and bleeds just as everyone else. The human body is as fragile as it is capable.

Whilst the key elements of the set design have been discussed in previous posts – located here and here – one interesting development that has improved over the past decade is the use of sound within the theatre. According to Danny Boyle (2015), productions appear to be scored in a similar fashion to blockbuster film productions. The sound design introduces a new level of engagement to the audience, influencing their ability to encapture the tone and mood through various forms of atmospheric design.

(Figure 1.2 Shown above – an interview with Danny Boyle, discussing the direction of the production)

The production of Frankenstein incorporates different elements of design that strengthened the execution of the play, inviting the audience to analyse their personal perception of the story. Whilst direction can be suggested through atmospheric design, the purpose of the theatre is to permit the audience to make their own conclusions.

The approach that the team intends to take incorporates a similar thought process – the purpose of the animated documentary is an invitation to evoke an intellectual and emotional response from the audience. The narrative of the piece is dictated by the pace and tone that is set by Attracta during her recount of her experience; in that respect, the audience has a guide that accompanies them from the beginning of the piece until the very end and provides that connection through which they can associate with the events. The challenge for the team is strengthening that audio description and incorporating it within a visual medium, transforming it from one form of storytelling to another.

The processes that have been used within the production of Frankenstein may suggest ways in which we can strengthen the ability to drive the audio and visual elements of the animated documentary to push those atmospheric elements. The important element of the art study is the ability to evoke a similar reaction in the audience member – the ability to make those moments potent will, optimistically, result in an equally emotional response in return.


YouTube. (2015). Directing Frankenstein. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2017].


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