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The Monster and Mary Shelley by Glasgow-based The Occasion theatre company returns from the dead for tour with performance at Eden Court, Inverness lined up


By Kyle Walker


THERE is something oddly appropriate about a theatre production dealing with the life of the author of Frankenstein being brought back to life.

And all the more so when that production is brought back to life in the month of Halloween – as The Occasion theatre ocmpany’s play The Monster and Mary Shelley has been.

The production – billing itself as an atmospheric and darkly comic exploration of fear and the famous gothic author – lurches into Eden Court theatre on Saturday night.

And for the production’s director Peter Clerke, the timing of its resurrection from the dead 18 months on from its original run was no coincidence.

“I mean, that was partly the reason that we went for it,” he explained. “We got interest from this venue in England that specifically asked for Halloween, because they thought it’d be an easy time to sell the show!”

But after a successful Scottish tour before – which had seen the production visit Findhorn and Lyth among other venues – there is still life in the play yet. “It’s a lovely little show, actually – it’s everything you like a show to be!” the director said.

“It’s very well acted, very well written, the set’s really good, the lighting’s really good. It’s got quite a lot of humour in it, and it’s also poignant and...yeah – it’s engaging, I think, above all else.”

Building a play up around Frankenstein’s creator – the story’s rather than the titular scientist – is a hardy task for a company. Until recently, Mary Shelley was seen as something of an enigma.

Catherine Gillard stars as Mary Shelley in The Monster and Mary Shelley, coming to Eden Court on Saturday. Picture: Marc Marnie
Catherine Gillard stars as Mary Shelley in The Monster and Mary Shelley, coming to Eden Court on Saturday. Picture: Marc Marnie

The author was only viewed through the twin prisms of her famous literary creation and her work to have the poetry of her late husband Percy Bysshe Shelley published for decades after her death in 1851 from a brain tumour at the age of 53.

But in recent years, focus has shifted more widely on the author – the daughter of writer William Godwin and feminist thinker and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft – to focus on her other works and her political radicalism.

“Stewart, who wrote it, had recently suggested Mary Shelley as a subject to look at – and the more we looked at her life, the more interested we became,” Peter said.

“We did a couple of development periods on it, which would be Catherine Gillard – who performs in it – and myself, Stewart, Richard Williams who does music, and Ali MacLaurin who designed it, we would spend the odd week here and there just discussing things and devising.

“Stewart would write from that and we’d put it on the floor and play with it, really. So it kind of grew very organically. She’s just such an incredible figure, Mary Shelley. What she achieved in such a short life and what she went through.”

While the story is structured around the writing of Frankenstein, it isn’t a linear tale – allowing The Monster and Mary Shelley to explore all the moments and aspects of the author’s life and beliefs. “It kind of jumps backwards and forwards throughout her life. There are influences and it tries as much as possibly to draw parallels with the present day.

“I mean, a lot of the issues that she was concerned with are still frighteningly relevant. Like the battle for equality for instance, freedom of expression, yep.

“You’d think that we would have gotten further in 200 years, but maybe not.”

The Monster and Mary Shelley is performed at Eden Court on Saturday night. The show begins at 7.30pm and tickets cost £16 (£13 under-26, £11 student/unwaged). For more information, go to www.theoccasiontheatre.com



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