"Thrilled by her own Genius"
by Debra Hall on 08/10/19

Leather booted, with a dress wide-belted at the waist, hair pulled into a tight updo with fringe parted and plastered down, a determined, Mary Shelley is enthused by her fictional plot as it grows into a horror story. As she progresses through the creative process, this feisty young woman is thrilled by her own genius!

When Shelley is not frantically jotting her ideas; she stores her pencils in her top knot for easy access. Think of the Moomin’s character, Little My and you’re someway there to visualising, Eilidh Loan playing the famous author.

It is an interesting approach having Mary Shelley narrate. After all, a classic novel brought to stage is not meant to be this way. Therefore, when we first meet her, and for a while after, we are intrigued by her. Many times, we pay attention to Loan’s expressive face - especially when her character asks herself “Can I really be brave and run with these ideas no matter how controversial?” Then see her decide for herself with a cheeky, fiendishness “Yes, I can!” – scribble…scribble. Unfortunately, once the play’s structure becomes apparent, and Shelley is constantly scrambling all over the set, pulling and pushing those pencils, everything gets a little repetitive.

The play does not short change us with the character progression of Victor Frankenstein played by Ben Castle-Gibb. We meet the youngster and his people played by members of a strong, ensemble cast. We witness this intelligent, young man having a preoccupation with chemistry. We see him push the boundaries of science. We see the monster he creates. We know Victor's soul is haunted resulting in the neglect of those close to him.

It is never going to be possible for Victor Frankenstein's monster to live among friends and it is a tough call for Michael Moreland to present us with something so horribly fearsome; yet so tragic at the same time. The Monster is a liability for Victor and this is the one thing, overall, that meets one's expectation of the Monster character.

The stage throughout appeared too bright, almost clinical. The dry ice effects often swirling around a brightly lit backdrop. Admittedly, the immoveable set has to convince many times: it's a deck of a ship, it's a family home; a science lab; a hangman’s cell; even a dense woodland. A clever design nonetheless, because the opaque panels are designed to conceal before the big reveals.

Sitting in a non-elevated seat however, with a close stage positioning in The Belgrade Theatre’s B2 auditorium the creation of any kind of Gothic or sinister atmosphere was not achieved. For example: the shadowy mood that the production photograph manages to convey (see above) was not witnessed on this night.

With action taking place on two levels one's neck is often constricted. Reviewer concedes the technical enhancements may work better at a different stage venue, with a different seating arrangement.

Unfortunately, this play is quite unremarkable in many ways; nothing more than the unusual choice of narration and the occasional loud bang will surprise!

Other recent reviews by Debra Hall
The Color Purple
full-on stage fest of performance by Debra Hall
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Serious but lacking vital intensity by Debra Hall
The Girl on the Train
This gets the populist vote by Debra Hall
Turn of the Screw
Light shines on Gothic Classic by Debra Hall
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Visually and Aurally rather 'Splendid' by Debra Hall