This intriguing promenade around Bath from Show of Strength theatre company follows the footsteps of Mary Shelley, who, in the desperate rush to claim Jane Austen as its own, Bath has largely forgotten. She was here, however, in 1816, and this is where she wrote the book of Frankenstein, having had the idea for it on a stormy night by Lake Geneva, telling ghost stories with Byron, Percy Shelley and others. But Mary’s own story and that of the other vulnerable teenage girls in her complicated family, and of how Byron, Shelley and other priapic misogynists treated them, turns out to hold more genuine Gothic horror than her fictional novel.
We visit the places where she and others of her fragmented and tortured family lived, as the tale of the complex and many-faceted relationships between them unfolds; the performance enlivened with the reading of actual letters between them. These are very revealing, both of the prevailing atmosphere of the times in which they were written, and of the agonising emotional turmoil of their writers, sometimes almost unbearably tragic – while the behaviour of the feckless men in this erratic bohemian coterie makes the Rolling Stones look like models of caring fidelity. This is an enthralling story, well told and meticulously researched, with many newly-discovered facts. If you want to find out the labyrinthine details of this dark, action-packed tale, go on the walk. It runs every night until the end of September. You will be entertained, enlightened and horrified in equal measure. Fascinating.
John Christopher Wood