An Evening with Mary Shelley, Tamworth Lit Fest 2019

“Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?”

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley

I spent International Women’s Day at An Evening with Mary Shelley as part of Tamworth LitFest 2019, and nothing has ever been more fitting. Mary Shelley is a bad bitch. At the age of eighteen, she penned the story of Frankenstein. She had to publish it anonymously, as women were not supposed to have dark thoughts or strong opinions about society in the 1800s. It was fully aware of its own importance, another thing women weren’t supposed to express. And yet, she shared it with the world, and many other works including travel writing, essays, and biographies. She told the world what she held, and was socially exiled for it. Yet whose book are we celebrating 200 years later?

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus (1818) has never been more important, and this performance captured the essence of that. The pursuit of knowledge has consequences. Frankenstein dedicated his life to learn how to do the work of God to stroke his own ego. When he realizes the horror and ugliness of what he has done, he rejects his own creation. Instead of taking responsibility, he abandons his project, indirectly causing the murder of innocent people. Victor tries to run from the Monster, and by doing so, causes more harm and unhappiness. By the end of the novel, he acknowledges his duty to the Monster and making sure he doesn’t cause any more harm, but it is too late. Everyone Victor loves in his life is dead. Isn’t this a cautionary tale for Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Wahlberg? I definitely think so.

As someone who has studied Frankenstein three times in school and read the book six times – it gets better and better! – I admired the way the performance was able to include context, criticism and biography, along with powerful quotes from the novel. I felt I was reliving the reading and study of the book; it was an incredibly engaging summary, and made me want to read the book all over again. This definitely needs to go on tour to all the secondary schools in the United Kingdom, if not America!

The performances of all three actors were fantastic. Sarra Kassourai expressed the intelligence and integrity of Shelley; she had such elegant composure and eloquent speech. Dylan Knight captured the arrogant genius of Victor Frankenstein, as well as the tragedy that Frankenstein experiences as a result of that. And Kraig Gilmore was a terrifying, yet sympathetic Monster. His voice really conveyed the anguish of the character. They brought the words of Mary Shelley back to life. The atmosphere the room helped, too – glowing candelabras and handwritten papers.

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An Evening with Mary Shelley reminded me just how brilliant Frankenstein is, and just how relevant it is today! I think that every single person, especially those working in Tech, need to read Frankenstein and I am so glad that Tamworth Literature Festival is putting on insightful and thought provoking events like this.

PS. Read Frankenstein online free! Gotta love the internet.

PSS. Featured image from Dylan Knight.

PSSS. Read more about my experience at Tamworth LitFest 2019