It's no easy task bringing real people to life on stage, but the cast of Blood and Ice are confidentNana Ama Konadu Otuo

I had the chance to sit and chat with the cast and crew of the upcoming Week 3 show at the Robinson Auditorium, Blood and Ice. The play, first performed almost 40 years ago, takes a look at the events of the summer of 1816 where Mary Shelley wrote her gothic classic, Frankenstein. It centres around Shelley’s memories of the ‘year without a summer’, when the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history caused global temperatures to drop by about 0.5℃. While in Switzerland, Lord Byron challenged Shelley, her husband Percy, and Claire Clairmont to write the scariest horror story they could. It is on this canvas of a dreary, grey summer that the creation of Frankenstein takes place, which the play narrates through Mary Shelley’s memories.

“Mary Shelley’s character changes significantly when acting with Percy and with the mysterious Creature that haunts her memories”

Director Arianna Muñoz told me how she, as an English student, had always been interested in the characters of the play as historical figures, but that she had struggled to find much media that dealt with this particular story. Her vision is to bring these “opulent and gothic” characters to life, with a real focus on the relationships between these incredibly talented, yet highly eccentric, individuals. Liz Lochhead’s Blood and Ice seemed the perfect opportunity to put this ambition of creating a gothic drama in the style of Ghost Quartet or Crimson Peak (two of Arianna’s main inspirations) to life. This staging of the show draws heavily on gothic aesthetics, and I’m told that many a moodboard went into the devising process. Expect a rich, detailed and opulent set to help bring us into the gothic world of Mary Shelley’s psyche!

Charlie Scott-Haynes plays the famous author, whose memories narrate the playNana Ama Konadu Otuo

What interests me in particular about this play is that the events are seen exclusively through the lens of Mary Shelley’s memories, turning the incarnations of Byron and Percy Shelley that we will see into caricatures of themselves. Giving life to Lochhead’s incarnations of real people in this manner sounds like a hefty challenge for any actor, but Charlie Scott-Haynes, who is playing Mary, says that a lot of work has gone into characterisation and establishing the relationships between the personalities that dominate the play. Blood and Ice focuses heavily on the relationships between its characters, exploring how they change over the course of the extraordinary competition. For this reason, Charlie said that being able to dedicate a large portion of rehearsal time to simply talking with her fellow actors and getting comfortable in these fictional relationships has been hugely helpful in being able to get inside the literary giants’ heads. Charlie confessed that she is a fan of Mary Shelley, and so is very excited to be able to play her on stage. She faces a particular challenge, however, in that she must adopt the character of a young, playful Shelley as well as an older version of the character who looks back at her memories of the summer spent in Switzerland. Again, work on relationships has apparently proved useful here, as Shelley’s character changes significantly when acting with Percy (played by Ollie Flowers) and with the mysterious Creature that haunts Mary’s memories (played by Cian Morey). I’m particularly excited to see what role this Creature will play, further blurring the boundaries between Mary Shelley’s memories and the fictional world she creates in Frankenstein.

“This is going to be an ambitious and powerful production”

I was also able to speak with Laura AlYousif, the sound designer, who is working with a band to record some original compositions to add to this staging of the play. The music will fit with the themes and settings of the play, helping bring the audience further into Mary Shelley’s mind as well as enriching the opulent (this word came up repeatedly!) and gothic world of Blood and Ice.


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Coming away from the interview, I’m confident that this is going to be an ambitious and powerful production, one that will indulge in all the drama and romanticism of a classic gothic story. It was clear to me that everyone involved is deeply passionate about the show and about the Romantic literature that inspired it. I’m really looking forward to seeing Blood and Ice in Week 3, and I hope that anyone who comes along (whether a fan of Shelley or not) will be imbued with the same passion for gothic literature that has fuelled this production so far.

Blood and Ice will run at the Robinson Auditorium at 7:30 pm from the 9th to the 12th of February.