Friday, 9 August 2019

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: Genesis: The Mary Shelley play at C Cubed Main Space

It is always refreshing when someone takes a familiar true story and characters from history and reimagines the sequence of scenes that created their fame. Mary Humphrey Baldridge has taken the story of Byron's challenge to his friends on Lake Geneva in 1816 to write a ghost story which led to Mary Shelley writing one of the most famous horror stories of all Frankenstein. I was not familiar with his challenge or relationships but in this extremely well written seventy minute play, she hooks us into the hedonistic world this group inhabited and their obsession with Death and the after life.

In the intimate cramped surroundings of C venue 50 on Lawnmarket with a minimum of props and furniture, the Artists Collective Theatre recreate the houses that Byron and Shelley hired that summer in Switzerland and we see the influences that led Mary Shelley to respond to Byron's challenge in writing her story. The costumes are generally good although I failed to understand why they were all bare footed throughout and the two white knitwear jumpers they wear when going sailing looked like they had just been bought from a Scottish knitwear shop on the Royal Mile! 

Tayla Kenyon is excellent as Mary Shelley supporting her husband to be Percy Shelley, Ben Francis, and resisting the extravagant overbearing Lord Byron, Ellis Wells who taunts and teases the others as he tries to reach spirits of Newstead monastery. He is accused of being "the devil himself". Shelley himself is unstable as he uses laudanum.

They are accompanied by Claire Clairmont played by Gemma Evans who was Mary's step sister but seems to lust after both Shelly and Byron. The fifth member of the cast is Luke Harding as Dr John Polidori. 

Director Amanda Cutting does a very good job creating the atmospheric tensions between the characters based on fear and sexual desire and with the constant sound of rain and lighting become the inspiration for her story . When we hear Mary Shelley's inner thoughts the lighting changes effectively suspend the action.

This is a play with great potential with its interesting central story, well drawn characters and exploration of desire, creativity and the afterlife. The cast are excellent and rise above the the restrictions of the venue to deliver a compelling and intriguing drama.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £10.50 

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