With a fan of writer Rona Munro in the house (my son is a Dr Who afficionado and Rona has written both a classic and contemporary episode of the series) we were looking forward to seeing this – her reimagining of Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece on stage.
The play sets Mary herself in the middle of the action, as we watch her struggle with the writing of her great work (published anonymously in 1818) and with the development of her characters and story – plus her dread of the nightmare of a monster which has haunted her own dreams.
The set is stunning – white and glacial – with bare branched white trees acting as ladders between the two storey set and turned upside down to portray the throbbing veins and arteries of a body brought back to life as a monster.
The lighting is dramatic and beautiful – all adding to the chilly atmosphere and the impending darkness to come. Then there’s the smoke machine – allowing drifts to penetrate the audience and envelop us in misty menace.
Eilidh Loan as Mary Shelley is outstanding. She dashes around set, pen always poised at the ready, if not poked into her hair to allow her to gesticulate energetically around stage. She is dramatic, but playful. She eggs us on to expect horror and damnation – but also manages to make us smile with her wit and her reactions to what her characters are up to.
Ben Castle-Gibb is convincing as the tortured scientist and Michael Moreland as The Monster (don’t expect any green faces or bolts through the neck) allows us insight into a tortured, misunderstood creation who is driven to murder because of broken promises.
The play is an interesting, atmospheric take on the gothic story – with an almost Shakespearean edge to it. Don’t expect hands over the eyes horror. But do expect a clever script and a feast for the eyes.
It’s on at the New Theatre Cardiff until 2nd November. More information here: www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk