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The Monster and Mary Shelley

“Absorbing one-woman show”

It’s 201 years since Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, anonymously at first, when she was just 20 years old. This one-woman show, created by Glasgow-based company The Occasion, originally opened last year to mark the bicentenary and now returns to tour the UK.

Written by Stewart Ennis and directed by Peter Clerke, it’s a straightforward work. Catherine Gillard plays an ageing Shelley, remembering and reflecting on her life. Over an hour, she dives back and forward through time, recollecting her star-studded childhood, her relationship with Percy Shelley, their bohemian lifestyle and the tragedies that befell them both.

She always returns to Frankenstein, though – her inspiration, her incredulity at its popularity, and her indignation at questions over its authorship. It helps that, in the corner of Ali Maclaurin’s paper-strewn set, a hulking, canvas-covered model of the monster itself sits, stock-still save for a delightful coup de theatre at the curtain.

There are some brilliant bits – when Gillard hilariously performs Percy Shelley’s seduction of her on her own mother’s grave, and when she re-enacts the 1803 re-animation of the murderer George Forster at the hands of Italian scientist Giovanni Aldini, for example.

Gillard has a soft storytelling style and Richard Williams’ shifting sound design underscores everything evocatively. But Clerke’s production struggles with the more serious sections. It clumsily trades tongue-in-cheek Horrible History-style stuff for a genuine attempt to dissect the trauma behind the tale, and can’t quite find the right tone. It’s engaging throughout, but far from electrifying.

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Production Details
Production nameThe Monster and Mary Shelley
VenueAssembly Roxy
StartsOctober 25, 2019
EndsOctober 25, 2019, then touring
Running time1hr 5mins
AuthorStewart Ennis
DirectorPeter Clerke
Set designerAli Maclaurin
Lighting designerPaul Froy
Sound designerRichard Williams
CastCatherine Gillard
Production managerDavid O’Neill
ProducerThe Occasion
VerdictAn absorbing but tonally uncertain one-woman show about Mary Shelley and her famous creation
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Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

Fergus Morgan

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