Year Without Summer

Cast Iron Theatre have rocked a minimalist set – an intimate three chairs and floor space surrounded by a ring of audience members – and have stretched it expertly to the peak of its credibility. The Summer referred to is 1816, where Mary and her step sister Claire Claremont indulge in psychological manipulation and word play with Lord Byron. We are introduced to Lord Byron, or ‘Albie’, who is lying on the floor the worse for wear and being attended to by the two women, whilst the most exquisite classical rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit tinkles in the foreground.

A cleverly produced play reflecting on the forces which unite the three

Mary is suffering from writers block, and in this piece by the Birghton based company, Byron is busy writing Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Byron is experiencing an identify crisis, wearing the ‘persona of a poet though feeling burdened by the role. Estranged from his wife and kept from his daughter, he doesn’t consider the value of those around him. Via their heavy hearts and life events, the three explore the nature and act of writing. For Mary, it’s an ‘act of exorcism’, of which she competes with her step sister. However the gift of song and fair looks belongs to Claire, reinvented from her original birth incarnation of Jane. Pregnant to Byron, she finds herself unwanted and in this she attempts a self preservation.

This is a cleverly produced play reflecting on the forces which unite the three, and the circumstances that attempt to divide them. A feminist perspective on Byron is problematic, as the nature of the beast is that he dominates his environment both physically and metaphorically. However the two women – Morgan Bradbury as Claire and Rhiannon Williams as Mary, deliver polished narratives which they clearly enjoy performing. An engaging hour into the lives of key players in the history of english literature, with a unique perspective that will shape how we view them forever more. A bit of refinement will elevate this performance substantially, but a courageous first attempt at contracting the elongated version of this performance to render it Fringe ready.

Reviews by Jodie McVicar

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★★★★★
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★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

May 1816. Claire Clairmont invites lover Byron to Lake Geneva with her stepsister Mary Godwin. Passions run high, ghost stories are shared. History has forgotten Claire, but without her Mary might never have conceived of Frankenstein.

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