‘The Monster and Mary Shelley’, Tron Theatre, Glasgow [Theatre Review]
Frankenstein author Mary Shelley is having a bit of a moment right now, with a new film about her starring Elle Fanning coming out in summer, and the anthology series Genius announcing that its third series will feature the famous, ground breaking sci-fi writer as its titular clever clogs.
The Occasion’s The Monster and Mary Shelley covers the same ground, but with only an hour to get through the tumultuous ups and downs of Shelley’s life, the production resorts to clever (and very fun) theatrical tricks.
Starring only Catherine Gillard, the action seems to take place almost outside of Shelley’s life, with an older, confident, yet sadder version of Shelley telling the story of her past, flitting back to her childhood, teenagedom, and of course, the famous night in Geneva when Lord Byron challenges Shelley and her friends to write a ghost story.
This is where the fun of the production really kicks in, and Stewart Ennis’ script starts to get a bit meta. Shelley quips that she might be “allergic to the 19th century,” and “just really fucking talented,” and a teentastic-Georgia-Nicolson-style retelling of how Shelley lost her virginity at her mother’s graveside is stand-out hilarious.
It’s also really spooky in places, as Gillard interacts with a silent cloaked figure who is both the monster of her famous Frankenstein story and the nagging guilt of her subconscious. The stage is draped in sheets, and are hung to resemble the falling pages of a book, while tight, scribbled words are projected onto every surface on stage.
The visual of the written word harks back to the lifeblood and work of Shelley and those who were closest to her, but it also nods at the claustrophobia of being trapped within your own thoughts, haunted by the past.
Sometimes happy, sometimes sad but always poignant, Mary Shelley and the Monster pays wonderful tribute to a life well lived.