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The monster lives again as actor Eilidh Loan and playwright Rona Munro's Frankenstein adaptation seeks to resurrect legacy of 'punky rocky' Mary Shelley at Eden Court, Inverness

By Kyle Walker

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ALL things must come to a sad and ignoble end one day, even the pale creatures brought back from the throes of death itself.

And the plays based on those stories must sadly end too, as Rona Munro’s adaptation of Frankenstein finishes its UK tour at the start of next month.

Who knows, perhaps the lauded theatre production will be resurrected by some mad genius (or group of financiers) in the near future, a lightning strike splitting the sky as the production bursts back to life?

For now though, the show is moving towards Inverness, where a three day run at Eden Court begins on Thursday night.

And for Eilidh Loan, she can’t wait to bring the show to life on the city boards as the tour enters its final throes. “Do you know, we were just chatting about it actually on Saturday before we finish – after Inverness we have Manchester and Aylesbury, so we’ve got three more venues to go.

“And it almost feels like we’ve blinked and it’s finished. And it’s just been the most enjoyable time, being able to tour round the country doing what you love doing, and seeing cities that you maybe wouldn’t necessarily go to.

“And obviously playing the cities and famous theatres across the UK has been pretty special – hearing stories about who’s been in what dressing room I’ve found really fascinating. So it’s been fantastic!

Eilidh Loan as Mary Shelley in Frankenstein. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan 002
Eilidh Loan as Mary Shelley in Frankenstein. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan 002

Erskine-born Eilidh has arguably the most important role in this adaptation of Frankenstein – the author herself, Mary Shelley.

Just 18 when she wrote the book that would become one of English literature’s most enduring and spinechilling gothic horrors, Mary was a radical figure in so many ways. The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and proto-feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary insisted on publishing Frankenstein under her own name – at a time in the early 19th century when women were strongly discouraged from writing at all.

Even the fermentation of Frankenstein, the beginnings of it, are the stuff of legend – Mary crafting the bare bones of a plot around an unholy scientific resurrection during a night of creating ghost stories with her husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont.

Playwright Rona Munro’s adaptation doesn’t just dive into the horror, but into Mary’s work in crafting the horror. “And you watch her in the play, you watch her go through this process!

“Rona so brilliantly put the women at the centre of the story, of her story, of this story that she has created. And people miss that, people often miss that she was an 18 year old woman writing at a time when women weren’t allowed to write.

“It’s really remarkable that this story which is one of the most famous gothic horror stories of all time, and it’s still so prevalent today – the themes and everything. It’s still studied at schools.”

Eilidh’s own introduction to the story came through, as a lot of people’s did, through the classic visual images of Frankenstein – the lumbering green-faced beast with nuts and bolts through his neck, brought back to life by a bolt of lightning.

“I was hit with the audition to play Mary Shelley, and I was ashamed as a woman creative to be like, ‘I have no clue who this remarkable 18-year-old was.’ And then I instantly fell in love with her and was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this woman was incredible!’

“Then I read the book – I’m dyslexic as well so I find reading quite intimidating, but I was just in awe of how speedily I got through this book, how engaging it was and just how, even though I knew the result and knew the ending, I was just – it’s such a page turner!

“And you really get into the sort of real monster that Mary creates and the novel isn’t the sort of spin off that we’ve seen before. Rona’s really brought the human element back to the novel for her play, and we see the monster in this really human, true form – that isn’t the nuts and the bolts and the green face.

“It’s much more raw and human than that, which I just think is even more heartbreaking.”

And Mary’s story resonates down the years, just as much as her most famous creation – if not more so to Eilidh. “Mary is so modern and she’s so relatable to a lot of our younger audiences – she has a real punky rocky energy, and she’s so fiery and she owns her novel.

“All the themes are relatable to today. There are some things Mary says politically and some she says as a feminist that all ring very true today. There are things that she says in the play, you can hear the rumbles of audiences as they go, ‘Hmm, yeah.’ They sort of agree for their own personal reasons.

“And it’s just that yeah, she’s seeing it for a point back when she was around, but it’s still so relevant today.”

Frankenstein comes to Eden Court from Thursday until Saturday, February 22. For show times/ticket prices, go to www.eden-court.co.uk

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