Mary Shelley, Tricycle Theatre, Review

(First written on June 21, 2012) I was just going to try to evaluate the play I saw last night by typing “Three stars ***” or “Four stars ****” but how do I know what these stars mean anyway?

This is my first review on this dear blog, and I must say I am happy that only 2 or 3 people will read it! Again: what do I know? What does it take to become a critic? Good question! After reading my favourite journalists’ theatre and film reviews, the answer is: a literature degree and experience which allows comparison. I can say I certainly don’t have the former, and am only starting to have the latter. Moreover, until last night, all I knew about Mary Shelley is that she wrote Frankenstein! So I looked her up and learned that on top of that, she was inspired to write the novel before she was even 20 years old! Her mother Mary Wollestoncraft (who died only 10 days after giving birth to her daughter) was one of the first feminist writers, and insisted in the 18th Century that women only appear to be inferior to men because of their lack of education.

This haunting resemblance between the two Marys is one that appears in the first scene of this play written by Helen Edmundson, as the mother’s ghost jumps off a high surface and mimes drowning. This immediately sets the atmosphere, which is later supported by more nightmares and pain. Mary meets and falls in love with the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, then still a married man. Their relationship announces trouble, as they run away to continental Europe together with one of Mary’s sisters Jane, leaving their other sister Fanny and their parents behind with very little money. The caused public humiliation on the family leads Fanny to be rejected by the boarding school she was so eager to attend. I was quite touched by the fact that her sisters follow their feelings and leave society’s rules behind, not realising what implications this has on their sister Fanny, who finally commits suicide. Echoing what I wrote in my previous post, pain is such an individual feeling and cannot be felt by others, especially not by those who are happy and thus blinded by their happiness. Of course I’m far from saying that one shouldn’t follow dreams and happiness…

To conclude this slightly improvised review, I’d like to say that I was impressed by the main actress Kristin Atherton, and even more so by Shannon Tarbet (centre on the photo above) who played Jane, one of the sisters. She is only 20 and has such a charming expression. Through the gloom (the word “gloomy” was often part of the script – I like that word), she was the one who brought smiles to the audience. I think we will be seeing more of her.

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