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Home » Reviews

Frankenstein’s Wedding at Kirkstall Abbey

Submitted by on March 20, 2011 – 8:25 pm5 Comments
Copyright BBC/Mark Squire

Copyright BBC/Mark Squire

Guest blog post by Sarah Dunwell of Create Leeds.

My 16 year old daughter was desperate to see Frankenstein’s Wedding and so it was primarily on her behalf that I tweeted a plea for tickets to the event. The always generous Emma offered not only a couple of tickets, but VIP tickets no less, that included a backstage tour, free bar and food and indoor seating with large screens on which to watch the show when it got just too cold to be outside. I’d read up on the build up to the event and have to admit that I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m not normally the dressing up and dancing a field sort of girl…my views on that sort of behaviour seem to mirror that of @philkirby!

Jennifer and I arrived in our finest wedding attire and soon found that what we’d worried would be terribly OTT was actually dressed down compared to the sea of fur, lace, feathers and assorted fascinators stretching as far as the eye could see. An hour later, having done the backstage tour (we were very excited when Mark Williams of Harry Potter fame wondered past and said hi), eaten far too many canapés and drunk just enough Peroni to loosen up, we went outside to our little beside-the-stage seating area and watched the 12,000 strong crowd practice their wedding dance as the sun set.

There was some confusion when the show began. While those watching at home on BBC3 were watching bits of the programme filmed before-hand, or when they cut to scenes in the church, bedroom, lab or lantern lined courtyard (remind anyone of the #jellywobble lanterns?) then the lights went down on the stage and we were left watching a big TV in a field. When the stage show was on the atmosphere was great, although the burger vans in the background didn’t add anything to the ambiance when I watched the show on iPlayer the next day!

So the final verdict from me? It was a lovely evening and with our splendid VIP tickets we were looked after very well by the BBC team. We wandered out into the main viewing area a couple of times (you couldn’t see the screen from our special enclosure – you had to go back indoors to watch TV) and people were obviously having fun when there was something to watch on the stage. If I was being a tiny bit harsh I’d say it was a very ambitious project that didn’t quite hit the mark in its execution. Kirkstall Abbey was the most amazing setting, especially lit up the way that it was and with the larger-then-life full moon overhead. There had been an incredible amount of work put into pulling off this unique project, but…the singing (especially in the early scenes) was dodgy and the fabulous Phoenix dancers were wasted in their roles. I enjoyed watching it on TV and certainly managed to fill in some of the gaps in my understanding of the story, as well as enjoying identifying the bits of Leeds I know well.

And the last word should go to Jennifer…who had been the reason we were there, after all. This is her round up of the event:

“Lots of my friends had tickets but none of them had VIP tickets…thanks Culture Vultures! I loved getting dressed up and seeing all of the other costumes and I thought Lacey Turner was brilliant as Elizabeth. I watched some of the show on the TV screens inside and went outside for the stage bits – watching the audience doing the wedding dance was brilliant, they really nailed it! I think the BBC should do more stuff like this and they should definitely film it in Leeds”.

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  • Tom says:

    Maybe it was because I was closer to it and was lucky enough to be warmer, but I think it was brilliant.

    1) It was everything people who’ve been frustrated by the perceived lack of cultural ambition in Leeds have been shouting for. Imagine the angst if Manchester had done it…Because of stuff like this and We are all Jim, we’re making our own weather now (even if it’s chilly at times).

    2) A huge risk for all concerned. Different genres, big cost for the BBC, very live! I’m not an actor, but I thought the acting was excellent.

    3) A massive partnership effort, with mostly good feedback from local people in Kirkstall despite the Council really trying to pull off difficult attention to detail like closing the road during the crucial scenes. The dressing of the Abbey was spectacular.

    4) Great support from Welcome to Yorkshire and Marketing Leeds in straitened times. The BBC at its best. Mitch Benn should rewrite his song now…

    5) Phoenix Dance being able to show how awesome they are. Sharon choreographed thousands of people to do the Wedding Dance in what was an unforgettable moment for me.

    Maybe I’m a bit (unusually) gushy because we’ve been going through such difficult times, and the reason we took this risk was because we feel culture is a central part of how we can all get through this. (Yes I know Leeds need to get promoted and the Rhinos have to step up their game too). But there was a moment in the night when an unnamed visitor from London in the crowd was in my earshot being sniffy about it, and the Wedding Dance started, he looked at the crowd and his jaw dropped. We have something special in Leeds, and too often we hide it because we don’t want to show off. My brother’s reaction was to turn over the TV after 5 minutes and I understand that culture is so subjective.

    But just watch that Wedding Dance back and I defy you not to be just a tiny bit inspired!

    • Neil says:

      “Imagine the angst if Manchester had done it…Because of stuff like this and We are all Jim, we’re making our own weather now (even if it’s chilly at times)”

      Manchester and Liverpool already did; “The Manchester Passion” 2006 and “The Liverpool Nativity” 2007 both of which made use of the cities musical heritage to narrate the story. I also don’t understand the link between We Are All Jim, where a large amount of discussion was about doing it yourself and a production funded by the BBC, Marketing Leeds and Welcome to Yorkshire. To say it’s everything people have been crying out for, with regards lack of cultural ambition in the city, isn’t true and really misses the point of what is being discussed at events like We Are All Jim.

      • V says:

        As you say, when Manchester and L’pool did it, they did so with songs from their own ‘burgh. Having ‘One Day Like This’ as a highlight was a particular stab in the vitals of the LS6 muso scene! This wasn’t really connected to Leeds. Could have been any Abbey–perhaps should have been Whitby just for the in-joke on monsters!

        It was…interesting. Not as mythic as the Passion or Nativity (especially the Passion), a couple of the performances were excellent, the rest mediocre-to-dodgy. But the real stars were, and should have been, the audience (something neither Passion nor Nativity made full use of). The wedding dance was superb, and seemed to blow away the actors on stage, they were a little spellbound by it. Otherwise, the script an plot were basically a standard EastEnders episode. With a monster.

        Musically, they couldn’t find any space to do a nod to the Sisters, or The Mish? As I said to Emma via twitter, if they’d opened it up to Yorkshire as a whole, they could have dived into Sheffield–Pulp, Human League, Heaven 17, Monkeys. What a wonderful soundtrack that would have been. And ending with a rousing version of ‘This Corrosion’. Bet Eldritch would even have done it live.

  • It’s interesting to hear from someone who was there – I watched it on television. I love the ambition of these things – the Manchester Passion, Liverpool Nativity and the flashmob operas.

    We went to a BBC3 flashmob opera at Meadowhall a few years ago. To be honest it wasn’t very good – again, fantastic ambition and wonderful idea – but most of the time you couldn’t hear anything and it was more focused on the TV audience. Which I think is one of the difficult issues with this kind of event.

    I don’t want to get competitive, but I’d build on what the earlier commenter said in that The Manchester Passion and the Liverpool Nativity were, in my opinion, much better productions. Better storytelling, better use of appropriate songs, and in some way, not trying quite so hard to be a spectacle.

    Having said all that, I love the fact that we have the BBC – who else would have the ambition to try something like this – and well done to everyone who took part. And the Abbey and other places in Leeds looked fantastic.

  • Sammi-J says:

    What fun to get such fab VIP tickets and hilarious to think you could have gone “really” OTT. Wonderful to imagine so many people in fascinators – good on ‘em!!

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