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Transfixed by Gothic gem.

Byline: AMY McLEAN

Mary Shelley, Northern Stage, Newcastle, until Saturday KNOWN as the author of the early 19th Century novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley lived a life of anxiety and pursuit that would eventually lead her to write one of the most complex novels of all time.

With Mary Shelley, a play new to 2012, Northern Stage brings her tale to life.

When 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin falls in love with Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she is delighted to find that he is equally fond of her.

However, when Mary's father, William Godwin, disapproves of their relationship, Mary is heartbroken. Torn between doing right by heS r father and listening to her heart, drastic action is taken. Is Mary to live a life her mother, radical writer Mary Wollstonecraft, would have approved of? I cannot think of another time when I have seen a play that has unfolded so captivatingly, the progression through the narrative allowing us to understand why Mary desired to imitate the love she craved from her father by building a family with Percy Shelley.

It's widely understood that the writing of Frankenstein came about after the Shelleys spent time with Lord Byron at Villa Diodati in Switzerland, in 1816.

There was a slight chronological alteration with this significant moment in the play, changing the setting and timeframe in which Mary's harrowing nightmare occurred. However, the story does otherwise display accuracy, if not for a few minor tweaks to allow it to flow more easily as an art form.

Each cast member brought their characters to life, however two actors stand out: Kristin Atherton portrayed Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin exactly as I felt she should be - ambitious and adventurous, with passion in her core - while Shannon Tarbet provided an excitingly energetic Jane "Claire" Clairmont, with character traits that match those commonly known to have been displayed by Clairmont herself.

Weather is at the forefront of a lot of the emotion projected. As snow falls, you can almost guarantee that tears will, too. The use of lighting to create darker stormy scenes, and the stage often coated in a layer of Gothic-like mist, heightens the Romantic sensations that are conjured. With the occasional comical line woven into the script, penned by Helen Edmundson, the play is balanced perfectly.

Anticipate the possession of your soul for the evening - the play will capture your attention in ways barely imaginable.


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Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 25, 2012
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