Genesis: The Mary Shelley Play (2 stars)

Genesis: The Mary Shelley Play

Creative mayhem portrayed politely and traditionally

The circumstances surrounding Mary Shelley's creation of the novel Frankenstein has been well explored in the arts, notably in Ken Russell's Gothic, a film that taps into the hallucinogenic nightmare that seemed to follow the romantic poets Byron and Shelley and their wives and lovers as they attempted to break through the pieties of Enlightenment society. Genesis takes the night before Mary's dream that birthed the monster, yet can bring little new to the wild events.

Mary Shelley herself is lost in the general antics: a few monologues expressing her thoughts and desires aside, the sexual and artistic hysteria of the two male poets – and their companion Polidori – dominates the action. The script is over-written, aiming towards the elegance of 18th-century conversation but never quite achieving a poetic fluidity, and the cast pitch their performances towards a formal, traditional acting style that can feel stilted.

The rhythms of their arguments are dynamic, with a solid direction that ensures that the conflicts are clearly delineated, but much of the dialogue fails to draw out the themes of moral experimentation and creative aspirations. While the company make good use of the limited accessories of the venue – the lighting is evocative and guides the structure – Genesis can never quite launch itself to match the excited mania of the story itself.

C Cubed, until 26 Aug, 5.05pm, £10.50–£12.50 (£8.50–£10.50).

Genesis: The Mary Shelley Play

  • 2 stars

Artists Collective Theatre (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) Lake Geneva, early summer, 1816. Genesis takes place in the living room of Diodati, Lord Byron’s villa, and the bedroom of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley's villa. It stunningly portrays the nights of intrigue and titillation that inspired Mary Shelley to produce…

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