THE creative team behind a new stage production Dr Frankenstein - Lorne Campbell (Director), Selma Dimitrijevic (Writer) and Tom Piper (Designer) have spoken to the Daily Echo about this new work based on Mary Shelley's novel which casts a woman in the role of Dr Frankenstein. It opens at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton tonight and runs until Saturday ( April 8).

1. Everyone knows the story of Frankenstein; did that make your job more difficult to write a new adaptation?

Selma: Not really. As a writer I ‘m having a conversation with the audience; an informed and curious person is always more exciting to talk to. It also allows us to play with the idea of what people might think they know about the story, and often, how wrong they are. When I first went back to the novel, about a year ago, I was really surprised how little I really knew of what happens.

The idea of the doctor being a woman was not mine, it was Lorne’s, but it was a fantastic challenge. The most exciting thing, and the thing I’m most proud of, is that it didn’t really change what the play is about. It didn’t become a play about women or femininity, it’s very much a play about responsibility, power and consequences – whether you are a man or a woman.

2. Why did you decide to make Dr Frankenstein a woman in this new production?

Lorne: The play is part of Queens of the North at Northern Stage - a season of great female stories and great female storytellers. The novel was written by a woman and I’ve always read it as being about women – most likely influenced by Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, herself a writer and a hugely influential early feminist thinker. It’s about responsibility, but from a female perspective so it seemed fitting that our Dr Frankenstein was a woman.

3. Why is a new production of Dr Frankenstein relevant now?

Lorne: Shelley was writing against a backdrop of a Europe tearing itself to pieces, while the industrial revolution, imperial expansion and capitalism were forming the future. The Creature and how he is perceived stands as a metaphor for the ‘fear of the other’ – xenophobia, racism, sexism and the diminishing of those different from ourselves. Ultimately, it’s a drama about responsibility, about the inevitable consequences of action and the personal drama of how we chose to face, or try to avoid those consequences. In a world that is facing, or trying to avoid facing, the realities of financial crisis, globalisation, war in the Middle East, the refugee crisis, climate change, Trump, Brexit etc etc this feels very pertinent.

4. What can audiences expect? What’s different/new and in what ways does it remain faithful to the original novel?

Selma: The feeling I wanted to recreate was the same one I had when I first read it as a teenager: I was terrified! In our version, the Creature is not necessarily what people might expect it to be. As well as looking at what is Victoria’s responsibility, I was also interested in what the world might look like from Creature’s perspective. What does he do if he is seen as less that human? Does he demand equality? And if it’s denied him, how long can he be attacked and persecuted before he starts thinking of retaliation? And finally, if he does retaliate – whose fault is it; his or ours?

Tom: What’s different about this production is that, in a more philosophical way, it explores the boundary between life and death. So rather than making a new human being out of bits of other people, you’re doing a more sensible, practical thing - taking a recently deceased body and seeing if you can bring it back to life. In a sense, although it’s less ‘horror movie’ in many ways, it feels truer to the sentiments behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the period it was written in - what it means to be alive and dead, and who controls life. In the piece, she questions the existence of God - she believes man created God, not the other way around. It looks at attitudes towards science - science is often demonised when it tries to progress, but Victoria believes it will be of great benefit to find out why people die, and how they can be kept alive. That’s actually what we do in modern medicine all the time. It explores the boundary of how far you can go, what you can do. We want to keep an element of reality to it (with some theatrics of course) while remaining true to the science of the era. I do research the period when I’m designing a production, but it’s a play written now, for an audience now. The space is very abstract so it allows the audience to engage their imagination

Lorne: The Creature in our story is a different thing - he’s shaped by a world that treats him very badly, then thinks the worst of him and fears him and calls him a monster.

Tom: In terms of the design for our Creature, he’s been injected with a life-giving elixir, but he eventually rots from the inside so we need to create that look with make up during the production. In the make-up session we start off with it being quite subtle, then when we get into the space we’ll adjust the look to suit the stage - we don’t want to look like we’re at a bad Hallowe’en party. There are definitely no bolts!