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The Monster & Mary Shelley


Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four Stars

An elephant in the room sits  throughout Stewart Ennis’ biographical imagining of the many lives of Mary Shelley, the much neglected author of Frankenstein. Or rather, there is the monster she allowed Dr Frankenstein to create by proxy, and who might just be sitting beneath dust sheets in the corner as Mary too comes to life like a Hammer horror heroine reclaiming her soul.

In a room resplendent with lush drapes and papered with scraps of scrawled words, it’s a neat double bluff to introduce this new production from Glasgow-based performance company, The Occasion, in which Catherine Gillard unveils Mary’s story.
Like its subject, Ennis’ script is a multi-faceted gothic collage that gives vent to the assorted voices in Mary’s head. As she moves back and forth from hanging with the bohemian set in Lake Geneva and her previous exile to Dundee, Mary adopts a modern-day yoof-speak, outing herself as a teenage mum apparently referred to by the locals as ‘perambulator face’.

This is one of many witty asides that leavens the story, which, as delivered by Gillard, lends a knowing sense of fun to Peter Clerke’s production. Beyond this, an over-riding seriousness drives the heart of a piece which looks how Shelley’s wild imagination was almost written out of her own history.  Byron and Percy Shelley, who Mary so doted on, come across as self-absorbed bores, and Mary’s father sounds like a Victorian dad unable to tame his daughter.

Gillard’s performance is aided by Paul Frey’s washes of light that change colour with Mary’s moods, and Richard Williams’ sound design moves from brooding electronic
sweeps to punky drone. All of which makes for a vivid cut-up of psychological light and shade that gets to the dark heart of the creative urge within. 

The Herald, April 23rd 2018

Ends





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