Appearances can be deceptive.

After the first few minutes of watching Frankenstein at the Headgate Theatre, I had a slightly sick feeling in my stomach that this was going to be an overly stylised production of Shelley’s famous Gothic chiller.

The way the ‘Creature’ is created and the cast wearing branded ‘Frankenstein’ t-shirts just all looked a little out of place for me.
But then the proper acting began, I nestled into my seat and marvelled at one of the best shows I’ve seen at the Headgate Theatre.

Funnily enough, the other play I often cite as being one of the theatre’s best was Waiting For Godot, a production which also relied heavily on the cast acting their socks off, and it was the case with Frankenstein as well.

This human story is all about characterisation and nowhere more so than in the Creature, Frankenstein’s creation who is left to fend for themselves, discovering language and culture in the kindly and welcoming home of DeLacy, a beautifully gentle performance by Toby Roberts.

It was their initial scene, which first grabbed my attention, and held on to it right to the end, and a lot of that had to do with the incredible tour de force that is Harry Bowen.

He’s a young actor, who has already impressed with his very personal role in Paul T Davies’ Jacky, so it was no surprise when the director and writer cast them in this production.

Except this play is very different, raw, challenging, taking the character of the Creature through a myriad of emotions as they try to make sense of a world that sees them as a ‘Monster’, a world where, against all the laws of human nature, they shouldn’t really exist.

And Harry not only conveys all of that spectacularly, but also wonderfully tugs at the heart strings, despite their horrific deeds. It’s quite something to watch.

As well as Harry, another relatively newcomer to the Colchester stage, George Deadman, impresses as Victor Frankenstein, troubled, desperate and guilt-ridden. When he and Harry are together, and please excuse the pun, they literally light up the stage.

Although, to be fair, that also has a lot to do with lighting designer Ben Wills, a very welcome recruit for the Headgate, who I hope will continue to work his wizardry on the local stage for many years, if this production is anything to go by.

Other acting mentions should go to young Isabelle Casement as William, a definite star in the making, Sharon Carter, who excels as both Gretel and Clarice, and of course the stalwart of the Headgate stage Michael Cook, who always brings such skill and gravitas to whatever part he plays.

This is a show they’ll be talking about for years, and quite rightly so.