Until May 6
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Monstrous Bodies, the new drama written and directed for Dundee Rep and Poorboy theatre company by Sandy Thomson, is, at two hours and 35 minutes (including interval) a little longer than the average stage work. There’s a simple reason for that, it’s actually two very distinct plays which have been forced together in the most uncomfortable way imaginable.
The first (set in 1812) is a fairly conventional, but interesting, bio-play about the young Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who would later write the famous novel Frankenstein under her married name of Shelley) and her time in Dundee. The other is a worthy, but astoundingly unsubtle, political soap opera (set in 2016) which tackles the serious subject of sexist hate crime on the internet.
The two stories alternate uncomfortably, connected only, and tenuously, by the prevalence of misogyny in both and the fact that Roxanne (the Dundonian schoolgirl targeted by a cyber bully) is set to give a school presentation on Wollstonecraft Godwin. The breakneck gear changes between the two scenarios are filled with routines in which schoolkids in uniform perform cringe-inducing slow-motion choreographies to hip hop tracks; as a means of fulfilling the production’s stated intention to “encourage young people into theatre”, this is about as patronising as it gets.
There are decent performances from Rep Ensemble members, such as Irene MacDougall and Billy Mack (who play Wollstonecraft Godwin’s rich-but-radical Dundee guardians, the Baxters) and Rebekah Lumsden (as Roxanne). However, any skill or nuance in the piece is all but drowned out by the crude polemic of the modern day scenario; which is replete with teenage stereotypes, leering workmen, a playback of Donald Trump’s “locker room” celebration of sexual assault and, for good measure, an instructive school assembly speech about sexual equality.
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on April 30, 2017
© Mark Brown