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Theatre Review: Monstrous Bodies

Joy Watters reviews a production filled with 'sublime creativity, imagination and desire to say so much' but has 'a lack of clear focus overall'.

Sandy Thomson’s new creation at Dundee Rep is something of a work in progress. She has so much to say about the challenges facing young women across the centuries that there is a lack of clear focus overall. The two stories of a famous 19th century teenager and a contemporary schoolgirl rub along together but never coalesce.

Ironically it is Thomson’s sublime creativity, imagination and desire to say so much in one work that make it less than satisfying. A collaboration between Dundee Rep and Poorboy, Thomson writes and directs, with starting point the visit of 14-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later Shelley, to Dundee in 1812. Mary stays with the Baxters, well known textile bosses and free thinkers. Even then, the seeds of her groundbreaking novel Frankenstein are being sown.

Set against this is the story of contemporary schoolgirl Roxanne who is bullied on social media after passing out at a party and having a topless picture taken.

Both are shown reacting to opposition and their means of getting their voices heard. Mary (given a feisty youthful reading by Eilidh McCormick) is sure footed in her political beliefs and the role of women, determined to make her point.

Donald Trump’s vile taped comments about women and their private parts inspired the contemporary story. In her trolling battle, Roxanne goes as far as to summon up the name of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl almost murdered by the Taliban for going to school, still waging an international battle for her peers.

Rebekah Lumsden convincingly builds the role to the final impressive climax when Roxanne finds her inner strength.

A cast of young people joins the ensemble to create scenes at Roxanne’s school, with some impressive dance and movement (choreographer Emma Jane Park) interspersing the dialogue.

Monstrous Bodies performs at Dundee Rep until May 6th.

Tags: theatre

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