Women writers can still labour against a belief that their fiction must be autobiographical – that the power to make things up belongs to men.
In making Mary Shelley a character in her new adaptation of Frankenstein, playwright Rona Munro may seem to be acquiescing to the fascination with life over work. Far from it: the instant Mary rushes on stage pushing a desk and grabs a pen from her hair, this is a play about the moment of creation.
It’s a great frame. Eilidh Loan’s black leather-clad Mary is an animated, intense and engagingly flip 18-year-old. “Love it!,” she cries approvingly of the sepulchral set with its white bookcases and branches. “You’re welcome!,” she boasts after serving up a death scene.
To begin with, she and Victor Frankenstein are caught manically up in the same act of creation. But Munro is also interested in responsibility. While Frankenstein turns away from his ‘child’, Mary dares herself to extend empathy: “I will look at you,” she tells the creature, “I will understand you.” She also expresses some serious scorn for “great men [who] will not own the devastation they create”.
It’s a real shame that Patricia Benecke’s production is so lacking in tension – despite the sound of cracking ice and cracking necks – while the Monster merely looks as though he’s had a heavy night and been surprised on the way to the corner shop. Because Munro’s Mary Shelley has the potential to make Frankenstein, and feminism, come alive for a new generation.