Review; MARY SHELLEY Playhouse

Article excerpt

Byline: Catherine Jones

FAMOUSLY radical parents, an infamously wayward sister, a domestic landscape littered with suicides and illegitimacy, a love affair that shocked society - then a novel that shocked even more.

Much of Mary Shelley's early life was pure soap opera, lived at an often operatic pitch. The newspapers of the day followed each fresh foray off the path of social decency with salacious glee, so imagine how the modern day tabloids would have loved her? Everyone knows Frankenstein, but Liverpool playwright Helen Edmundson is more concerned with Mary's own creation as a vibrant, determined and singleminded creature confined - until she breaks out, losing her creator's love in the process - in a claustrophobic, book-encased domestic setting.

As an audience you feel acutely and physically the stress in the family home where the spectre of debt looms over political radical William Godwin (William Chubb), his exasperated second wife (Sadie Shimmin), and their three daughters - the product of three different fathers and two mothers - fragile Fanny, flighty Jane, and lastly Mary, mettlesome offspring of Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.

Into their life comes poet Percy Shelley, like Mary an unbending Godwinian disciple (more unbending than his teacher who opines glumly "one learns to live with compromise"), and turns all their lives upside down, eloping with Mary and setting in motion the circumstances that would lead her to pen her radical novel. …