This musical tells the story of Mary Shelley, her marriage to Percy Shelley and the inspiration for her novel Frankenstein. Shrewsbury School has previously brought seven successful productions to the Fringe.
The production opens with Mary recalling her elopement with Percy Shelley, when she was sixteen, leading to her casting out from her family and society. Now in 1816, aged nineteen, she and Shelley are staying at a villa in Geneva with Lord Byron and friends. Byron entertains them by reading ghost stories and suggests that they write their own. Initially, Mary has no ideas but then she recalls hearing her father talk about an experiment in which electricity was put into the corpse of a dead criminal. That night she has a terrifying dream, which gives her the inspiration for Frankenstein and his creation.
The production then switches into Marys story, from Frankensteins arrival at the University of Ingolstadt and his meeting with Professor Waldemann up to the point where his experiment has been successful. We then return to Mary in 1816, where Shelley tells her to pack up everything because they are going on the Grand Tour. She is unhappy about having to stop working on her novel and concerned that taking the children around Europe will damage their health, but Shelley reassures her that it will be good for them, so she reluctantly agrees.
Her story continues, with the monster roaming the countryside, looking for love and a meaning to his life, but instead finding unhappiness and fear. He asks Frankenstein to make him a mate but is refused so he follows Frankenstein around Europe until the last confrontation takes place in Geneva, where the story ends in misery for all.
The final scene shows Mary at the age of twenty-four. Her two young children have died during their travels in Europe and Percy has just been drowned, leaving her penniless. She has fared no better than the characters in her novel.
This production is simply stunning. The first major scene, in which Shelley and Byron are almost drowned on Lake Geneva, sets the tone. Every member of the cast seems to be on stage at once, moving, singing and being thrown about by the storm. The audience is gripped at once and never released again. The singing is excellent throughout and the ensemble pieces work particularly well. The costumes are rich, colourful and authentic for the early Nineteenth Century. Frankensteins creation looks like a monster but is played with great sensitivity; nothing that happens is really his fault; all he wants is to be loved but never can be.
The production is very long over two hours, with a very short interval but the time flies by. This is a very professional performance, better than most in Londons West End. Not to be missed.