Charlie Scott-Haynes (Mary Shelley) and Hugo Gregg (Lord Byron)Photo/ Arianna Muñoz

Focused on the creation of her world-famous gothic horror, Frankenstein, Blood and Ice follows the story of Mary Shelley and the relationships she built and lost throughout her life. Arianna Muñoz’s staging of this play, first performed in the 1980s, is dynamic and full of life, successfully carrying the audience through its occasionally stuffy source material.

“The music, arranged and at times composed by Laura AlYousif, was beautifully expressive”

Taking the lead in the cast is Charlie Scott-Haynes, who portrayed Mary with an air of tragedy throughout. Even the show’s more playful and light-hearted moments were made bittersweet by Charlie’s performance. Playing a subdued, unhappy character without impacting the performance’s pace and level of energy is a difficult task, but Charlie undoubtedly succeeded. What I found particularly impressive was the way in which she was able to animate lengthy, poetic monologues by varying her intonation, making them seem as natural as ordinary speech.

Indeed, this was something that every member of the cast achieved by the end of the performance – something that was absolutely key to a show that could otherwise have simply been an extended series of speeches about the meaning of life. I was initially slightly concerned that this might be the case in the play’s opening scenes, where at times it felt like Ollie Flowers (Percy Shelley) and Hugo Gregg (Lord Byron) were reciting lines that they had learned rather than embodying real, living characters, but both actors relaxed in the second half of the play, slowing their deliveries and making compelling use of facial expression and tone in order to make their characters grounded and human.

The play’s second act was certainly stronger than the first. Each of the actors showed that their characters were far more complex than was first apparent. Cecile Taylor (Claire Clairemont) was able to transition from a lovesick teenager to a grief-stricken woman, while Eirlys Lovell-Jones as Elise underwent a remarkable transformation from a downtrodden nursemaid to someone capable of making a passionate defence of her character’s humanity. Special mention must also go to Cian Morey, who was not present on stage but voiced the mysterious Creature that haunts Mary’s memories. His voice acting gave the Creature a childish quality, making its relationship to Mary feel uncomfortably familial.

“For fans of high drama, Romanticism or gothic horror, this show is a must-see”

Arianna Muñoz’s direction was well-judged. She kept the performances dynamic and ensured that there was almost constant movement on stage. I feel that this was a good call, as the content of the script could have left the audience disengaged if every scene had simply consisted of actors sitting around a table. Tungsten Tang’s lighting design was simple but highly effective, with a bright, yellowish light distinguishing Mary’s memories, and a blue, sombre light that snapped us back to her older self. Another skilful choice was the gradual blurring of the line between blue and yellow in the second half of the play, as Mary’s grief at the loss of her husband and several children began to bleed into her memories. The music, arranged and at times composed by Laura AlYousif, was beautifully expressive, helping to guide the audience between scenes and adding an extra layer of emotional intensity to the play’s most dramatic moments.


Mountain View

Animal Farm at the Cambridge Arts Theatre Review

Liz Lochhead’s script is a complex one, full of monologues that many actors would struggle to portray in a believable and engaging way – but I was thoroughly impressed by how well the cast carried it off, and I expect that whatever teething issues there were at the start of the show will only be improved upon for the rest of the run. For fans of high drama, Romanticism or gothic horror, this show is a must-see.

Blood and Ice is playing at 7:30 at Robinson College Auditorium until Saturday 12th February 2022.