Right, where was I? Over Christmas, I think I had flu. I say ‘I think’ because I’m wary of claiming to have any kind of illness I didn’t actually have (‘Oh shut up, you didn’t have flu, you just forgot to boil the kettle for your coffee’), but this was pretty much the first time I’ve been knocked out by feeling unwell. Working as I do in various school environments, I’m obviously prone to the so-called ‘teacher’s flu’, in which one works their way all through term, and then collapses into a heap on the first day of the holidays, only to recover in time for the first day back. In truth, I’ve normally been pretty good at ignoring such sniffles, convincing myself that I’m okay really until roughly the point that I actually am.
No such luck this time. I was basically reduced to four hour days over Christmas, and no voice. For someone who normally keeps pretty active, this was genuinely weird – particularly as I’d intended to do a full rewrite on my upcoming fringe show Year Without Summer in that time. I’m now roughly a month behind – which, since rehearsals don’t start for another month or so, I’m not as concerned as I might otherwise be, but it’s still somewhat annoying. Year Without Summer, if you happen to have merely stumbled across this blog online, don’t know me, and haven’t had to put up with me relentlessly banging on about it, is about the meeting between Lord Byron and Mary Shelley (then Mary Godwin), and the former’s challenge to write ghost stories. Mary’s effort resulted in Frankenstein, which was published two hundred years ago, this year.
In truth, this story has been told a few times before, most (in)famously in Ken Russell’s marvellously bonkers film Gothic. There is, however, someone who I’d argue gets somewhat forgotten by history (because, after all, it’s Mary that writes Frankenstein, and it’s Byron that issued the challenge). Claire Clairmont was Mary’s half-sister, and it’s arguably down to her that Byron and Mary were in the same room at the same time. Claire does appear in a few of the films about that dark summer on Lake Geneva, but for the most part she’s sidelined in favour of the other, more famous guests. That’s understandable , but I wanted to give her more of a voice.
There has been an earlier version of Year Without Summer, produced at the Brighton Festival Fringe in 2016 (the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley beginning to write Frankenstein), but this new version of the play is more streamlined: the parts of Polidori and Percy Shelley are (regretfully) cut to give us more space to concentrate on Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont. There will be auditions coming up at the end of February, so check in on the website, and sign up to the mailing list for more details.
We’re actually doing two shows in the Brighton Fringe this year, and the second one looks to be silly, sharp and fun – One Woman Alien has Heather Rose Andrews (Cacophony) playing all the parts and providing all the special effects for a one hour parody version of Alien. We had a preview version at Halloween last year, which got a great response from our audience. We’re really looking forward to the finished version in May.
Right. Back to the rewrites ..