MARY’S BACK! HIGHLY ACCLAIMED PRODUCTION CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF MARY SHELLEY RETURNS FOR UK TOUR THIS AUTUMN
After an extremely successful Scottish tour in spring 2018, The Occasion Theatre’s The Monster and Mary Shelley will return this autumn for a UK tour.
Described by The Wee Review as “Fascinating and hilarious… a wonderfully engaging show”, The Monster and Mary Shelley is an outlandish trip through the mind of one of literature’s most incredible imaginations.
Incorporating elements of music hall, melodrama, horror and teenage rebellion with a pulsing contemporary cinematic score, The Monster and Mary Shelley is an atmospheric, moving, and darkly comic exploration of fear and one of literature’s most influential talents.
The show is directed by The Occasion Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Peter Clerke and written by Stewart Ennis.
Peter studied at the Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris and was a founder member and Co-Artistic Director of benchtours (1991 – 2009), directing or performing in all of their productions. He was also Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Lung Ha’s and spent five years at Edinburgh’s Theatre Workshop. From 2009 – 2015 he was the Artistic Director of Blue Apple Theatre, Winchester, one of Southwest England’s leading learning disability arts organisations.
Peter Clerke, director of The Monster and Mary Shelley said:
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to re-tour this hugely enjoyable show, both to more venues across Scotland and, with the support from ACE, to break new ground in England.
Never far from controversy, Shelley, throughout her lifetime, was at the forefront of social change in a turbulent world. Her exploration of fear, in the form of Frankenstein’s Monster, spawned a whole genre of fiction and continues to hold a massive relevance in the present day.
We very much look forward to introducing The Monster and Mary Shelley to new audiences across the UK.”
Writer Stewart Ennis was a founding member of benchtours (1991 – 2009) and has worked with many Scottish theatre companies. Originally trained as a performer at East 15 and the Ecole Philipe Gaulier, he was for several years Creative Writing tutor at HMP Shotts. Other plays include, The Dark Room, The Taking of Zena Charbonne, One Straight Line, and Robert Burns Celtic Complex. He has recently begun a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen and Curtin University in Western Australia. Vagabond Voices will publish his first novel, Blessed Assurance, in September 2019.
Catherine Gillard plays Mary Shelley. Catherine studied at Sydney Acting School and the Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris. She was a founder member and Co-Artistic Director of benchtours (1991 – 2009). Recent projects include Kill Me Now (Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre/Philadelphia Live Arts Festival), Apocalypse, The Taking of Zena Charbonne and YOU ARE HERE! (The Occasion.)
Richard Williams composes. Set and costume design is by Ali MacLaurin with lighting design by Paul Froy.
The Monster and Mary Shelley will open on Saturday 19 October at Eden Court, Inverness before touring to Haddo House, Methlick (20 October), Theatre Royal Dumfries, Dumfries (23 October), Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley (24 October), Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh (25 October), The Hawth, Crawley (29 October), The Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre, Bordon (30 October), The Spring, Havant (31 October), Bridport Arts Centre, Bridport (2 November), Dorchester Arts Centre, Dorchester (3 November), Forest Arts Centre, New Milton (5 November), Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham (6 November) and The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal (9 November). For further information and to book tickets, please visit http://www.theoccasiontheatre.com/tour.
The Occasion Theatre is supported by Creative Scotland. The Monster and Mary Shelley tour is funded by Arts Council England and The Golsoncott Foundation.
PC: Never far from controversy, Shelley, throughout her lifetime, was at the forefront of social change in a turbulent world. Her exploration of fear, in the form of Frankenstein’s Monster, spawned a whole genre of fiction and continues to hold a massive sway, and relevance, in the present day.
As, arguably, the inventor of the horror genre it is absolutely fitting that a show which examines her life, and how her experiences led her to create her iconic Monster, should feature at Halloween.
SE: To many, Mary Shelley is the Queen of Screams, although some say it would be more accurate to describe her as the Big Sister of Sci-Fi. The1930s Frankenstein film with its iconic Boris Karloff ‘creature’ has put her firmly in the horror camp – and occasionally camp horror – in the case of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
What can the audience expect to experience?
PC: A very enjoyable evening of fast-moving, visual theatre. The show is at times poignant, at others very funny; always engaging. A dynamic illustration of Mary Shelley’s life, shot through with a vibrant, contemporary musical score.
The issues that Mary was most concerned with, of equality, freedom of expression and acceptance have progressed in the past 200 years but, with the #Metoo campaign, ‘fake news’ scandals and the continuing persecutions of minority communities, these are still very live issues.
Mary Shelley was undoubtedly ahead of her time; as a society, we, it can perhaps be argued, are somewhat behind.
SE: I think they can expect a rich theatrical experience that looks at Mary Shelley and her work from a lot of different angles. Like all good theatre, it is speculative. It asks lots of questions, without necessarily coming up with definitive answers. That’s important when dealing with a historical figure.
This is a Mary Shelley who is straddling her own time and ours, just as her work continues to do.
How well does horror work as a theatrical genre?
PC: Horror, I think, is principally about controlling the ‘focus’ of the audience. In film this is much easier to do than in theatre, directing the audience’s eye to exactly what you want it to see – or not to see.
I think the most powerful representation of ‘horror’ in a theatre context that I’ve witnessed was La Fura dels Baus at The Tramway, where they performed in promenade, with very low light, and could get right up close to individual members of the audience (almost before the audience member knew they were there).
Performing, end-on, we can’t do this and have, rather, worked to ‘suggest’ rather than ‘show’ horror.
With ‘Frankenstein’ itself, after 200 years the novel can’t shock us in the way that it shocked its initial readership. However, there are still ideas which are frightening and the poignancy of someone, desperate for love, being shunned and vilified remains very powerful.
It is, as Mary says in the show, “a book of ideas and questions about things that actually matter!’ That is why it has survived.
SE: You have to do it on your own terms and try not to compete with cinema. The jump-scares, sudden close-ups and million dollar sfx that fright films rely on are hard to pull off in theatre.
Of course you can do schlock horror in theatre and create a spectacular of blood and body parts. Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was very popular in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century and occasionally makes a comeback. But it can end up being – intentionally and unintentionally – rather silly.
Theatre can be good at creating atmosphere and unease and by drawing you in with its storytelling. There is a lot you can do with lighting, music, design and of course we use all those. But in the end, we rely most on good strong characters telling us a story. We do employ a couple of old school theatrical tricks, but we can’t tell you about that.
Do you see your work in any theatrical – or other – tradition?
PC: Catherine, Stewart and myself all spent time training with Philippe Gaulier, in both Paris and London. This has been enormously influential on how all of us make work.
While Gaulier, himself, defies categorization – for a long time, in the UK, he was classified as being a ‘Mime’ teacher; something that appalled him – his concern with le jeu (the game), complicite, pleasure, lightness, honesty and playfulness has spawned a raft of companies. These include Theatre de Complicite, Told Like an Idiot, The Right Size. Also, Sacha Baron Cohen.
We, likewise, are very much in that ‘tradition’.
SE: We adopt a number of theatrical and language styles, flitting seamlessly between naturalistic confessional, modern teenage speak, ‘an- audience -with…’ the psychiatrists couch, comedy, and a sort of M.R James fireside ghost story.
It’s quite an anachronistic piece, and I couldn’t say that was intentional, rather than, that’s just the way it all developed through the workshop, writing and rehearsal process. As we all met at the Ecole Philippe Gaulier 30 years ago (when we created benchtours), it is no surprise that we still draw from the deep well of Gaulier’s theatrical techniques and traditions.
How does this work fit in with your usual productions?
PC: We’ve always sought to produce work that can shed a light on contemporary issues through both a narrative and visual form. Work that is entertaining and challenging (both for ourselves and our audience) and exciting.
Formerly, with benchtours, and now with The Occasion we’ve prioritised new writing but have also looked to produce new interpretations of classic texts. The Monster and Mary Shelley, working with Stewart, very much fits into the first of these categories. Our next production is, however, likely to be a new production of Ionesco’s ‘The Chairs’.
I’m not really sure that we do ‘usual productions’.
The Occasion was founded in 2010 with an aim to create live, accessible, image-based theatre capable of touring throughout the UK and internationally. A theatre that surprises and excites. The company was formed by Peter Clerke and Catherine Gillard, previously Co-Artistic Directors of the Scottish based international touring ensemble, benchtours (1990 – 2009). The Occasion is fully committed to widening access and participation in the arts through the provision of high quality work that challenges and entertains performers, participants and audiences alike.
Tour Dates and Listing information
The Monster and Mary Shelley
Atmospheric, moving and darkly comic with a pulsing, cinematic score, this is a contemporary voyage into the life of Mary Shelley – the Gothic Girl who electrified the world. Presented by The Occasion Theatre.
Saturday 19 October
Tel: 01463 234 234
Sunday 20 October
Tel: 0131 458 0200
Wednesday 23 October
Theatre Royal Dumfries
Tel: 01387 254209
Thursday 24 October
Paisley Arts Centre
Tel: 0300 300 1210
Friday 25 October
Tel: 0131 623 3030
Tuesday 29 October
Tel: 01293 553636
Wednesday 30 October
The Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre
Tel: 01420 472664
Thursday 31 October
Tel: 023 9247 2700
Saturday 2 November
Bridport Arts Centre
Tel: 01308 424 204
Sunday 3 November
Dorchester Arts Centre
Tel: 01305 266926
Tuesday 5 November
Forest Arts Centre
Tel: 01425 619983
Wednesday 6 November
Ashcroft Arts Centre
Tel: 01329 223 100
Saturday 9 November
The Brewery Arts Centre
Tel: 01539 725133