Theatre Review: "Frank Enstein" is a phenomenal work on self-confidence and self-love
The Farm & Co3’s Frank Enstein is the sort of play I wish I saw when I was growing up.
I can only imagine the impact it would have had on my life. Witnessing a performance tackling themes of self-confidence and self-love. Admiring the phenomenal set work and reveling in the sound design.
This is the sort of play that makes a kid want to work in the arts.
During Frank Enstein’s 55-minute runtime, there wasn’t a single moment where my attention faltered.
Even before the play started I was hooked, admiring the set design. I let my eyes dart across the stage, trying to take note of everything. And that’s where the beauty of it all is: there’s not much to look at, but there’s so much going on. The majority of the stage is set in a wall-less room, the parameters of which is defined by wooden foundations, and the outside world is defined by a picnic blanket and an umbrella. While it mightn’t be much to look at, the minimalist set design was the first of many things I loved about this production.
Where the set design was minimalistic, the sound design was anything but. Used to emphasise emotion, energise, add to the humour or simply be the backing track to a dance. The music and sound effects of Frank Enstein were masterfully used.
Bringing the performance to life, however, is the cast. Over the production's running time, we’re introduced to five different characters. All of which play an important role in promoting the message of self-acceptance. Each character battles their own issues. Whether it be in the form of self-loathing or self-acceptance, or loneliness and isolation. Each cast member perfectly captures these distressing emotions, and throughout the play, takes us on a journey of self-discovery.
Frank is the first noticeable character to bring up these themes. Played by Daniel Monks - who has a mobility disability himself. Frank has difficulties accepting himself. Following the source material, Frank creates “Monster”. But rather than being the disfigured, neck-bolt wearing zombie we’re all familiar with, Frank’s monster is an attractive, athletic, and muscular young man.
Wearing the same clothes as his creator, it’s made obvious that “Monster” is what Frank wishes he himself looked like. Slowly after getting used to his existence, Monster and Frank start to play. It’s within these few minutes that Frank's lack of self-acceptance and feeling of isolation is made most apparent. In one instance after falling over, Monster offers Frank his hand to get up. Instinctively Frank lifts his underdeveloped arm to accept the help, but quickly recoils it.
It’s this scene that stuck out to me as the defining “Why can’t he just love himself for who he is?” moment.
Over the remainder of the play, Frank, Monster and the rest of the phenomenally talented cast take us on an emotional rollercoaster. As each new character is introduced they bring along their own issues and troubles. And by the end of the play's 55-minute run-time, we witness people with self-esteem issues flourish and find love. We watch as characters who feel isolated beyond belief find a friend for life. And also come to realise that you should never make assumptions about the abilities of others.
While all of these themes can be quite confrontational and difficult to understand, Frank Enstein finds a way to make them digestible for anyone of any age. In the foyer after the play I heard kids talk about the importance of self-care, elderly couples converse over the times in their lives when they’ve felt alone, and I myself immediately texted my mum about how amazing of a performance Frank Enstein is.
Even if you disregard the hard-hitting and emotionally captivating story, Frank Enstein was a brilliant piece of theatre. With an amazing set and surreal sound design and a multi-talented cast, The Farm & Co3 put on a performance that everyone involved should be wholeheartedly happy with. And I think, most importantly, should feel proud of, knowing that everyone in the crowd left with a little bit more empathy in their hearts.