Set over the course of a thunderous evening in Lord Byron’s Lake Geneva Villa, Fantasmagoriana follows Byron as he, two of his lovers, and Mary and Percy Shelley take part in a hastily arranged writing competition; a competition that subsequently leads to the initial conception of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein novel.Just as he was famous for his poetry, so too was Byron infamous for his aristocratic excesses; he accumulated huge debts, fought in the Greek war of independence against the Ottoman Empire and engaged in numerous illicit love affairs – not to mention an incestuous one. This is a man whose entire life and persona seems almost perfectly designed for the stage; it is an added bonus that Adam Drew plays him so well.Drew seems to find a good balancing-point in portraying Byron; detached yet impassioned, flirtatious with women yet dedicated to his work and the art of writing, and a good friend yet also unnecessarily cruel. He speaks with the confidence and self-awareness that we would expect of such an esteemed poet whilst displaying a ludicrous pedantry and eye for detail – at one point growing wild with incredulity at the ugliness of a door-knob.The cast are so convincingly reverent toward the great Byron that it becomes pitiful. This, in itself, shows the consideration that each of the cast members have given to their character’s societal position. However, in interacting with each other, the others are less convincing. Some seem uneasy, positioning themselves as though they were unable grasp the significance of body language whilst others look awkward when attempting eye contact, apparently unsure of where to look. On the whole, one couldn’t help but feel the lack of chemistry between the performers.Nevertheless, the script is well-written and well-researched and a lot of consideration has been given to historical context. For large parts of the play the energy wanes, but this is soon forgotten when the relationships between the characters start to fall to tatters and the energy ratchets up another level; the cast grow more confident, the play becomes wittier, and Byron’s already-agitated persona burgeons exponentially.This is play is a frolic through a traditional, quintessentially English passion for poetry and the art of writing. To call it a comedy is to set the wrong expectation and to exaggerate the writer’s skill as a comedy writer. However, it is an interesting play about a fascinating group of people involved in one of life’s most beautiful pastimes, and definitely worth a look.

The Blurb

Byron has fled Britain in scandal, Mary and Percy Shelley are visiting, but why? Surprise arrivals, rivalries, romance. New comedy unearths the scandalous creation of 'Frankenstein'. Mad, bad and dangerous to see. 'Strikingly witty and polished' (Varsity).