Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join my reading group when they went to see Mary Shelley on Wednesday, but having read Frankenstein and wanting to learn more about the author I took Boon to see it last night instead…
First of all I would like to talk about the stage… it was simple, powerful and brilliant. They acted out the whole play using a huge table and a few chairs, whilst being surrounded by book cases. It doesn’t sound like it would work, but believe me it did. At times I forgot it was a table, and thought it was a different storey on the stage.
Secondly the play itself is exquisite; I purposely didn’t research Mary Shelley at all before I went, so that I would have no idea what was going on and my goodness what a life! The play is a complete rollercoaster of emotion… laughing at the fantastic one-liners from Mrs Godwin (the ‘evil’ stepmother) to shedding tears at the death of a baby.
We start the play with a 16-year-old Mary returning to her family in London from a trip to Scotland. We get a good idea of how complex the family relationship is, before Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin meets Percy Shelley and falls in love and stay with them as they travel Europe, deal with debt, rumours and tragedy; before closing as they marry two years later.
As soon as I came out I read the programme to see what happened after that and could have easily sat through another hour of the play if they had wanted to cover it!
Thirdly, the acting was (as I have come to expect from all performances I’ve seen at The Playhouse) fantastic – the whole cast was outstanding.
A special mention does need to go to Kristin Atherton, who was mesmerising as Mary – going from giddy with girlish enthusiasm at the start of the play and then growing to a woman with measured political views able to stand-up to her Father.
Lastly, I must mention the programme itself. I always buy a programme when we go to see a show – most of the time they aren’t very good, but I do it to support the theatre. But the Mary Shelley programme was a completely different story… not only do we have the full background to Mary Shelley, a genealogy chart, several interesting articles and a timeline of her life. They have included the whole script of the play at the back – I’ve not seen anything like it before, but I do hope that it will become more frequent.
I’d also like to mention that Mary Shelley is Written by Helen Edmundson and Directed by Polly Teale – and as much as I appreciate all good theatre, we should absolutely be supporting our female writers and directors!
I really can’t recommend this enough – Boon and I are still talking about it today – I want to read the rest of Mary Shelley’s work and also start investigating her mother; Mary Wollstonecraft.
Showing until 5th May, you can find out more and book tickets here