The Gothic Imagination: Bloody Poetry

Saturday 20 October



In Switzerland in 1816, the myth of Frankenstein was created by Mary Shelley. Howard Brenton's 1984 play imagines the lives of those present, among them the poets Byron and Shelley.

By the shore of Lake Geneva, the poet Shelley and his future wife Mary, together with her step-sister Claire, meet the infamous Lord Byron. All are in exile, self-imposed on Shelley's part, more serious for Byron, and find they are natural allies in a world which is threatened by their radical politics and unconventional attitudes to sexual freedom. Brenton's play celebrates the artistic radicalism and the fiery, intellectual anger of these young people, whose ideas threatened to kick over the traces of the society from which they were escaping. But their dreams of a utopian future were to be swallowed up in lives of excess, illness and tragic accidents.

With Oliver Ryan as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Clare Corbett as Mary Shelley, Patrick Kennedy as George, the Lord Byron, Sarah Ovens as Claire Clairmont, and Gareth Pierce as Dr William Polidori.

By coincidence, the play was recorded in the same week that a London auctioneer put on view the copy of Frankenstein that Mary Shelley inscribed for Byron ('To Lord Byron from the author'). The book was recently rediscovered in a private library and is expected to fetch something in the region of £400,000.

Adapted for radio and directed by Alison Hindell for the BBC

BBC Radio 4 Publicity