2 Marys playwright and director Suzanne Ingelbrecht urged her audience in her introduction tonight to enjoy discussing the 2 Marys, “Who were they? What did they achieve in the man’s world of the 19th Century?” The play is a “theatrical interpretation of true events” examining the complex relationship between two female authors. Mary Shelley, the author of the fantastical and enduring Frankenstein, and the other Mary, the relatively unknown author Mary Diana Dods, a troubled, but wonderful, cross-dressing romantic. Happily, I did enjoy discussing the play afterwards with my daughter. She didn’t know much about either of the Marys but, luckily, I knew a bit about Mary Shelley having seen the 2017 movie Mary Shelley with Elle Fanning.
The stark set and pared-back style of 2 Marys emphasised the strength and flexibility of its two highly talented actors. Shirley Van Sanden as “Doddy” was a tiny, fragile looking self-described “Yellow Dwarf” who is deceptively powerful and, at times, terrifying in her intensity. Ultimately, a monster of her own making. Nichola Renton shone as the supportive but concerned friend who ultimately regrets her decisions. This is a highly verbal and poetic performance. The clever and evocative audio visuals and soundscapes emphasised the changing environments from mountaintop fairy tales to prison dungeons.
Qi Cao has designed historically accurate costumes and the transformative makeup by Yvette Drager Wetherilt assisted to turn Doddy into Walter. (Not a spoiler, that’s one of the main plot points of the play!)
I thoroughly enjoyed this play, particularly the desperate desire of the clutching Doddy who is always asking for love and understanding, and the clever juxtaposition of the Frankenstein story to the real life story of the 2 Marys. Good theatre always leaves its audience with something to discuss on the way home, or in our case, over a hot chocolate. We happily discussed 2 Marys and agreed it was worth the trek to the beautiful Midland Junction Arts Centre.