Sunday, 23 April 2017

Monstrous Bodies

Dundee Rep
Four stars

A girl with shocking pink hair introduces herself as Liberty. She stands centre stage and invites everyone to keep their mobile phones on so they can take pictures of what follows. This isn't what one might expect from a play advertised as being about Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin's time in Dundee in 1812 before, as Mary Shelley, she introduced the world to science-fiction with her novel, Frankenstein. In the hands of the Poorboy company's Sandy Thomson, however, one should expect nothing less.

Subtitled Chasing Mary Shelley Down Peep O'Day Lane, Thomson's production of her own play charts Mary's travails as a fourteen year old put into the care of the wealthy and quasi-progressive Baxter family. She juxtaposes this with a modern-day scenario involving Roxanne, a girl the same age as Mary. When a compromising photograph is taken of Roxanne without her knowledge, the talk she is preparing on Shelley sees her attempt to conquer her fears just as Mary did.

The result is a dramatic sprawl of quick-cutting scenes that flit between nineteenth century melodrama and MTV-styled dance routines, with independent women at the heart of both. Played out over a split-level set, the combined might of the Dundee Rep and Poorboy acting ensembles are bolstered even more by a fifteen-strong young company of teenage performers. As Mary and Roxanne, Eilidh McCormick and Rebekah Lumsden are towers of strength across the ages, both to their peers and each other. In a high-octane study of how a moral high ground can be used as an excuse for misogyny, it shows how necessary it is now more than ever for young women to write their own story.

The Herald, April 24th 2017

ends

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