The Electrical Life of Louis Wain according to Benedict Cumberbatch

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is joy and sadness, lightheartedness and seriousness, just like his paintings. It’s about love and art in the oddly beautiful vagaries of what it means to be a human (in the company of cats). Wain’s cats graced the epochs before Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse (and Minnie) and His Gangs) debuted. But Wain was not Disney, and would he have even wished it? Perhaps, that is why Benedict Cumberbatch decided to give Wain a second chance to shine his name once more on earth in the magic of moving pictures that resurrected him from the lapse of time through the chapters of his story in this superbly narrative of the artist.

Louise Wain was a brilliant artist, a contemporary of French impressionist artists, such as Monet, Pissarro, Degas, and Renoir, and Dutch Vincent Van Gogh, all of whom were united in the brotherhood of independent spirits and resilient creativity. Yet Wain’s was a different sort, more existentially debauched in the provisional circulation of works, in the crossroads of the reality of being the only male figure in the parentless family led by the dominant matriarchal sister and of the ideal of ensconcing himself in the solitary niche. All artists are by nature sensitive, but Wain was extraordinarily sensitive, and the world was too much for someone like him to deal with. His wife, the light of his life, was the only happiness and love he felt and shared, but jealous God took her away from him and left him in the lurch of the familial duties and responsibilities in the somber household. This house eventually drove him and his younger sister into the oblivion of reason to the end. Yet, notwithstanding the personal tragedy, Wain’s unique visual world articulated with the sonar modulation of impulse that sparked his creative spirit yearning to soar up to the boundless ether on a par with constellations with stars.

Wain’s wife encouraged and supported him because she knew of his genius despite other people’s ignorance.

Benedict Cumberbatch, now universally recognized as the Sherlock thanks to the phenomenally successful BBC series, proved to be a superb character actor who became Louis Wain rather than merely playing the artist’s part. Ancient Greeks and Romans regarded actors as an equivalent of a spiritual medium whose body could be channeled into another spirit for a willful possession during a mysterious rite of sacred ceremony. If that was the case, as it were, that was how I felt watching Cumberbatch being Wain as if he had summoned the soul of the dead artist from the beyond and asked him how the artist’s life would be told. His naturally mild, gentle deliverance of character nuanced the inner fear, confusion, and frustration that Wain must have felt in dealing with the realities of everyday life as a reluctant and unlikely head of household. Yet, his passionate eyes and particular diction dictate that Wain was an artist of force, a man not of an age but for all seasons.

National Theatre’s Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature – review

Mary Shelley’s atmospheric gothic novel of Frankenstein has provoked a full arch of protean artistic imaginations in translating the story into the screen. Still, none of them is arguably more unforgettable and impressive than the production of National Theater, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature. It is as if the novel itself were played out by witchcraft of Art, conjuring up the spirits of the characters, possessing the souls of the performers and those of the spectators in the enchantment of the Sense and Reason in one fell swoop. 

Cumberbatch’s performance of the miserable Creature is so well studied and crafted that it is quite impossible to conceive: the crudely sawed up sutures without even a remote sense of estheticism, the awkward gaits of one huge mystical beast – perhaps wodewose? -, the muttering that sounds like the low guttural hissing, and the face that only inspires diabolic terror to the eye of the beholder. It is a plenary reincarnation of all things abominable to Taste and Reason universal in mankind from which it is eternally barred. If Dr. Frankenstein resurrected a corpse into life, it is Cumberbatch who resurrected it from the textual existence with gushing emotions and passionate actions that give to his Creature Human Sentiments and Sympathy even. 

Cumberbatch makes his Creature a creature of Pathos, a divine streak of humanity. It seems unpardonable and criminal to even feel toward such an abominable monster. The actor does it with the choreography of movements to express the changes in the moods and emotions. From the moment of its birth from death in the artificial placenta and to the return to its collapsed dreams and wishes, Cumberbatch does a superb job of expressing the tragic panorama. He delivers the Pathos of the Monster without the swashbuckling display of overt sentiments to render excessively contrived sympathy to his Creature, merely crying out, “I see inside, but I dare not go inside!” 

The power of reality in the setting of the stage gives the story of the play the verisimilitude. The specious scene in minimalist background conspicuous by the splendid display of the lights expresses the changes in the moods, emotions, and feelings of the characters. It also produces a maximum theatrical effect of resonance of the voices and illumination of the actions, holding the attention of the spectators without the infelicity of interruption and disinterest, making every scene wholly real and engaging.

This theatrical version of Shelley’s masterpiece is not a reactionary revision of the story. On the contrary, it is a manifestation of Shelley’s perspectives on her contemporary society, which is also contemporaneous with our own. This astonishing play makes the social and physiological elements realistic and enjoyable for the pure sake of exceptional art experience. It is a beautiful play inspired by a muse that would ascend the highest celestial stage with divine thespians to act and enchanted spectators to behold the swelling scenes. And yes, Shelley will be very content with this magnificently performed interpretation of her oeuvre from the heavenly balcony of immortal Theater of Arts by applauding the cast and the staff to the very echo.