Tag Archives: The Monster and Mary Shelley

WHAT’S ON OCTOBER: Local writer’s play being performed in Paisley

Following a successful Scottish tour in spring 2018, The Occasion Theatre’s The Monster and Mary Shelley, written by Stewart Ennis, will return this autumn for a UK tour.

The Monster and Mary Shelley is an outlandish trip through the mind of one of literature’s most influential imaginations.

On a sun-less day at their villa in Switzerland, Lord Byron challenges his guests Percy and Mary Shelley to each write a ghost story. Two days later Mary, 18 years old and having recently watched her premature baby die, has a ‘waking dream’ and begins to write a story that will haunt and define her for the rest of her life.

Incorporating elements of music hall, melodrama, horror and teenage rebellion with a pulsing contemporary cinematic score, The Monster and Mary Shelley is an atmospheric, moving, and darkly comic exploration of fear and the Gothic Girl who electrified the world.

The show is directed by The Occasion Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Peter Clerke, written by Stewart Ennis and performed by Catherine Gillard.

Stewart hails from Bridge of Weir. His very first job on leaving Linwood High school in the late 70s was a trainee journalist on the Paisley Gazette.  He’s also an ex RAI nurse. A career as an actor followed, primarily in theatre, but some may know him from his recurring role as Cllr McVitie in Still Game. Stewart also recently published his debut novel Blessed Assurance which refers to fictionalised versions of Paisley and Bridge of Weir.

Peter studied at the Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris and was a founder member and Co-Artistic Director of benchtours (1991 – 2009), directing or performing in all of their productions. He was also Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Lung Ha’s and spent five years at Edinburgh’s Theatre Workshop. From 2009 – 2015 he was the Artistic Director of Blue Apple Theatre, Winchester, one of Southwest England’s leading learning disability arts organisations.

Peter Clerke, director of The Monster and Mary Shelley said:

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to re-tour this hugely enjoyable show, both to more venues across Scotland and, with the support from ACE, to break new ground in England.

 Never far from controversy, Shelley, throughout her lifetime, was at the forefront of social change in a turbulent world. Her exploration of fear, in the form of Frankenstein’s Monster, spawned a whole genre of fiction and continues to hold a massive relevance in the present day. We very much look forward to introducing The Monster and Mary Shelley to new audiences across the UK.”

Catherine Gillard plays Mary Shelley. Catherine studied at Sydney Acting School and the Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris. She was a founder member and Co-Artistic Director of benchtours (1991 – 2009). Recent projects include Kill Me Now (Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre/Philadelphia Live Arts Festival), Apocalypse, The Taking of Zena Charbonne and YOU ARE HERE! (The Occasion.)

Richard Williams composes. Set and costume design is by Ali MacLaurin with lighting design by Paul Froy.

The Monster and Mary Shelley will play Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley on Thursday 24 October. For further information and to book tickets, please visit www.renfrewshireboxoffice.ticketsolve.com

 

REVIEW: The Monster and Mary Shelley – Platform, Glasgow

The Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva. Summer, but not any old summer. This was 1816, dubbed “the year without summer”, incessant rain, thunder and lightning, cock’s crowing at noon and orange snow covering the mountainsides. Months previously Mount Tamboro in Indonesia had erupted, spewing clouds of volcanic ash northwards, but this is the 19th Century, news travels slowly, superstition, not science still abounds. These sinister, portentous happenings lend an almost supernatural aura to events at the Villa. So, when Lord Byron challenges the gathered company to write a ghost story, it is no wonder that this special set of circumstances gave birth to both John Polidori’s The Vampyre, the tale that inspired Bram Stoker’s Draculaand Mary (Godwin) Shelley’s enduring masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of the novel, theatre company The Occasion take us on “an outlandish trip through the mind of one of literature’s most influential imaginations”. In doing so, they address the oft asked questions and rumours that have endured surrounding the writing of Frankenstein. How could a women, let alone an 18 year old, write this? It was really Percy Bysshe Shelley who wrote it. But this is no ordinary 18 year old. The daughter of feminist and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft and philosopher William Godwin, this was a child born for greatness. A woman who, as a small child, received a tiny lectern as a present so she could join her father’s intellectual salon. Laudably, The Monster and Mary Shelley shines a light on the life of Mary. Did she write Frankenstein as a direct result of her unconventional past, or despite it? Tellingly she shouts to the monster, “you, you were the light relief”.

Stewart Ennis’ captivating script sparkles, weaving the contemporary with the classical. There’s high melodrama, horror and a huge dose of comedy. It also draws parallels between celebrity then and now, the hacks of the day following the perceived debauchery at the Villa Diodati as keenly as every move of a Kardashian. There’s also an ear-pleasing contemporary score from Richard Williams.

Catherine Gillard delivers a tour de force performance as Mary. Switching from child to teenage rebel to adult dealing with love, lust and loss. This is a well-judged piece of writing, one that will appeal to those interested in the historical events in the colourful life of Mary, and appeal to young audiences thanks to its quick, modern and witty prose. Highly recommended.

Reviewed on 25 April 2018 then touring | Image: Marc Marnie

THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR THE REVIEWS HUB.