Review by Susie Conte
This is the story of Frank, a lonely and disabled guy who wants to be ‘normal,’ who creates humanoid monsters in his laboratory from mannequin parts. His creations are able-bodied and agile and he yearns to be like them. Frank is played by Daniel Monks, whose disability stems from paralysis following an operation on a brain tumour as a child, and his pathos and vulnerability is at the heart of this piece. When his first monster comes to life, played by Andrew Searle, Monks dances with him and revels in the feel of strong arms and agile movement. When he falls in love with a girl, Brianna Kell, he assumes he will never be able to show his true self and conjures up another ‘monster’ in her image, Talitha Maslin. Maslin’s awakening of the metal table is a sight to behold. The final performer in the piece is Zachary Lopez, one of the monsters who is formed in a bin from mismatching parts, and has a naughty side. His dance with a vacuum cleaner will have you laughing hard. The show allows Frank Enstein to see that he is loved for all that is and that he has to accept himself first before anyone else can.
In an interview with the Daily Review, Monks stated, “In my own work, in my own writing, and my own acting, I’m drawn to the idea of bodies and how much our bodies make up who we are. When I acquired my disability, my body completely changed and the way people treated me completely changed.”
Co3 is WA’s flagship contemporary dance company and this production is a collaboration with Gold Coast company The Farm. The choreography and athleticism are compelling. The humanoid monsters are hyper-able and serve to move Monks around the stage with grace as his surrogate arms and legs, and this has been carefully choreographed to be sensitive to his disability without constantly drawing attention to it. The use of Rosemary Clooney’s song “Sway” comes in and out of the action throughout as the theme music, culminating in a joyous dance sequence at the end. The set design by Vilma Matilla and lighting design by Mark Howett created two worlds, a garden with bright green grass and a laboratory of white plastic piping and surgical instruments, strewn with mannequin parts and boxes.
This is the first time I have seen a disabled actor on stage, and long may it continue. This is a thoughtful, engaging and necessary piece of dance theatre, that challenges how we view others. Monks is a force to be reckoned with, a WA actor on the verge of stardom.
As stated in the programme, this is “magical dance theatre illuminating a path to self-acceptance.” The directors wanted a show children could watch and learn the universal themes of self-acceptance and worthiness. This show has a terribly short season so go while you can. There are so many elements that can’t be described that need to be seen, or rather, experienced.
Frank Enstein runs until April 8 in the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA. For tickets and more information, visit the Co3 website here.