A Frankenstein

Written by David Penrose and Dik Bird

Havant: Friday 8th January to Saturday 9th January 1982

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Wednesday 18th August to Tuesday 31st August 1982

Directed by The Cast

This version of the familiar story has been devised and written by members of the cast and examines the fascination for the creation of a man by a man. The play is full of humour driven by an excellent narrative.

"entertaining and very, very funny" FESTIVAL TIMES

AuthorsDavid Penrose and Dik Bird

David Penrose (b 1950)

David Penrose is an amateur actor, designer, director and writer with Bench Theatre, where he has been a member since 1976.

David penned his first writing; revue sketches, at Leeds University when he was an under-graduate. Apart from these, most of his writing has been adaptations for the stage of extant work. In 1980 he adapted 'The Brothers' and 'The Merchant', originally written by Plautus, both of which were staged by Bench Theatre in the open air at Fishbourne Roman Palace. He has adapted 'Martin Chuzzlewit' (also performed by The Bench), compiled the 1981 musical revue 'The Only Way to Cross' and (together with Dik Bird) adapted the Bench production of 'A Frankenstein' which was taken to the Edinburgh Fridge Festival in 1982.

David's creative flair has been employed many times with Bench Theatre where he has been responsible for countless poster and set designs and he has occupied committee roles on many occasions - notably as Chair for five years - during his membership. As an actor, David's first Bench role was as Orlando in Ingrid Corrigan's production of 'As You Like It' in 1977. He appears regularly in Bench plays and reviews of his performances are consistently outstanding. He has won numerous acting awards including The News 'Guide' Awards and an All-England Theatre Festival Award. His directorial debut with Bench Theatre was 'The Philanthropist' in 1978. David was instrumental in the formation of the annual Havant Literary Festival in 2008 and continues to work with its organisation. He is also part of 'The News' theatre review team and his reviews of local productions appear regularly in print. David is currently Bench Archivist and lives in Havant with his wife Jacquie.

Dik Bird (b 1962)

Dik joined the Bench in 1980 (during his gap year) after studying at Havant College and before studying Drama at Goldsmith's College in London. He acted in the Plautus comedies at Fishbourne Roman Palace; directed Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead' in 1981; and, with David Penrose, he co-wrote, co-directed and acted in 'A Frankenstein' - adapted from Mary Shelley's novel.

After graduating, Dik went on to form a community theatre company in London and for some years he worked on the fringes of London theatre. One of his great skills has always been model-making and visual design and it was he who made the life-size monster puppet for 'A Frankenstein'. Emerging from his do-it-all days in community theatre, it was to be his design skills that led to his current career as a highly successful theatre designer. He now designs for theatres all over the world, including many major opera houses. This summer, his design for English National Opera's 'The Pearl Fishers' by Bizet can be seen at The Coliseum in London. He has also designed for The National Theatre, Saddlers Wells and Chichester Festival Theatre, where he worked on Coward's 'Tonight at 8.30' in The Minerva.

PlayA Frankenstein

This play was based on the original novel written by Mary Shelley. The story is of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger and more powerful. In this version written by David Penrose and Dik Bird, the cast use puppets, music and projection effects to create an inventive and funny tale. A Hollywood director, rejecting the hack movie commissioned from him, explores the modern man in the scientist-magician. Using parody, melodrama and a seven-foot puppet, the play is a fast-moving, funny and powerful reworking of Mary Shelley's romance.

The Bench Production

A Frankenstein poster image

This play first was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. Following a successful premiere it was taken to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August of the same year. It was staged there, in St Oswald's Lesser Hall, Montpelier Park, where it received an excellent review, if disappointing box office sales (due to its distance from the city centre).

Characters (Havant)

HarryPeter Corrigan
Maizie/ElizabethJill Sawyer
Katz/Henri ClervalDik Bird
Visitor FrankensteinDavid Penrose
PuppeteerJim Charlton

Characters (Edinburgh)

HarryRay Osborne
Maizie/ElizabethJill Sawyer
Katz/Henri ClervalDik Bird
Visitor FrankensteinDavid Penrose
PuppeteerJim Charlton


Directed by The Cast
Stage Manager Jim Charlton
Lights & Sound Tony Heptinstall
Photography Brendan Jackson

Performance Notes

"We performed 'A Frankenstein' in Havant in January [though not as a main show run] and took it to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. There we did not have much Box Office success as we were in a school hall just too far out from the centre to make the journey attractive. We did get a good review from the Festival Times and we had a ball doing it. Peter Corrigan had been part of the cast in Havant and was part of the original creative team. But personal commitments meant that he could not come up to Edinburgh with us. Bench founder member, Ray Osborne, took his place." - D Penrose

Programme notes

It was originally for children, this play. We wanted to combine actors and a life-size puppet. 'A Frankenstein' grew beyond a children's show. For a structure we chose Hollywood where ideals get turned to mass-produced goods. For a guide we took Harry, a man adept in every style the movies ever invented. He asks the questions which reflect our interest in the story.


Festival Times C.M.

A Frankenstein

This show dispenses with the fantasia of the Hollywood studio to develop into a zany, original production centred around the discovery of the only true version of Frankenstein. Well-timed music and projection make this a startling show which is entertaining and very very funny.

Production Photographs