Mary's Daughters

If only they could see each other now. Or, in this play, they can!

Mary's Daughters focuses on three women: Mary Wollstonecraft, portrayed by Megan Carter, and her two daughters, Fanny Imlay, portrayed by Kaya Bucholc, and Mary Shelley, portrayed by Rachael Reshma.

All three women deliver heart wrenching performances as women scorned by men in their lives or history. Carter, as Wollstonecraft, is the ideal nurturing mother and female solid authority, recounting her life with Bucholc as her perfect opposition. Buchloc’s commanding voice and strong presence suited the character written out of history and cast aside, as many outspoken women were. These were mellowed by the refined Reshma, playing Mary Shelley with poise and regency, apart from a multi-rolling instance where Reshma becomes an incredibly boisterous male, showing great versatility as an actor blending the subtle and the loud.

These three women share their stories in a post-mortem battle of woes in a powerful display of female strength. 

"Centuries after their deaths, a mother and her two daughters reunite for the first time to come to terms with their wounds, their writing, and their reverberations through history."

Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of modern Western feminism, recounts her life alongside her two daughters: the unremembered Fanny Imlay and the infinitely more famous author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. Despite the women being very different, they shared a tenacious mother who was taken from them eleven days after Shelley was born.

Like Shelley's Frankenstein, Mary's Daughters weaves together a tapestry of life, with every breath heard on stage as the women dispel myths about their lives and reveal their truth. Their ultimate message is that nurturing, kindness, and endurance prevail.

Bucholc also produced and co-wrote this feminist ghost story alongside Will Wallace. The two have created a ballad containing work from great writers associated with the story, such as Percy and Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. Alongside various powerful monologues, the cleverly written drama explores the emotional trauma of loss, grief, and feelings of inferiority.

Considering the heavy text, director Kay Brattan and assistant director and producer Billy Steel worked hard to create a light and airy stage. The floating apparitions that commanded attention when speaking soon became cobwebs blending into the walls or a voice in the dark.

This was only faltered by some repetitive choreography that appeared when a character wasn't in a succession of scenes. This basic movement detracted from the drama but was soon easily ignored. The benefit of this, however, was to showcase the exceptional lighting design by Charli Hurford. Casting shadows across rotating bifold backdrops, designed by Marysia Bucholc, provided glimpses into the past and created haunting witnesses to the unfolding scene. Hurford's use of colour was subtle and inspired by a clear understanding and appreciation for the text's emotional state and the stage's visual representation.

The intertwined lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughters, Fanny Imlay and Mary Shelley, reflect the enduring legacy of a tenacious mother whose influence shaped the course of history. Despite their differences, their shared experiences and the tragic loss of their mother bind them together in a poignant tale of strength, resilience, and the enduring power of familial love.

This show was reviewed on the 26th March 2024 at The Space in London where the show runs until the 30th March 2024.  Tickets available here: Mary's Daughters - The Space

Review written by Ryan Lenney


Photo credit: Billy Steel

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