Daughter of 18th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (who died just days after giving birth) and radical philosopher William Godwin, lover and later wife of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and teenage author of Frankenstein – the early life of Mary Shelley offers rich pickings for playwright Helen Edmundson and Shared Experience, the company for whom she has successfully adapted several classic novels.
Naomi Dawson’s set of crammed moveable bookcases evokes the impoverished circumstances which, her father (now married to Sadie Shimmin’s fretting fusspot) hopes, will be alleviated by his financial dealings with Shelley. Approval turns to disapproval, however, when Kristin Atherton’s headstrong Mary falls for the already married young man and elopes to Europe, taking her younger stepsister (Shannon Tarbet’s pert, optimistic Jane) with them and upsetting still further her troubled half-sister Fanny.
Edmundson constructs an engrossing story enhanced by Polly Teale’s fluid direction which brings to life a suicide, a hasty sea crossing and the miserable lodgings which soon persuade them to return home and, later, seek reconciliation with William Chubb’s docile until roused Godwin, who was, perhaps, at least partly the inspiration for Mary’s ground-breaking novel.
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