Dundee’s Rep’s Monstrous Bodies (Chasing Mary Shelley Down Peep O’Day Lane) is a new play written and directed by Poorboy Theatre’s Artistic Director Sandy Thomson.
The world premiere is a co-production with Dundee Rep and explores the time a young Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, found her imagination in Dundee in 1812. Her story is coupled with 14-year-old Dundee girl, Roxanne Walker, during an epically awful week in her life in 2017.
Natasha Jenkins is the set and costume designer on the project, having previously worked with National Theatre and Birmingham Rep. Jenkins’ first task was to capture and expand on Sandy Thomson’s vision for the play of two time periods. Her extensive research had her buried in books and frequently making trips to museums – the V&A in London being particularly useful.
Natasha’s designs were brought to life by Dundee Rep’s in house production team, handling both the set and costume aspects of the show. The wardrobe team – led by Cate Mackie – and skilled costume-makers throughout Scotland were responsible for the huge task of dressing the 26 actors and 60+ characters in the play.
They made over 200 costumes for the production, many of which were created from scratch. The costumes themselves were hugely diverse, the costume-makers having to switch between creating 19th century dresses one day to school blazers and ties the next.
The ambitious set offered different challenges, pulling together 20 different locations from throughout the play such as a boat, a school and a millionaire’s mansion into one single, coherent piece.
Not only does the set blur the lines between the numerous locations of the play but also the time periods, – for instance using a vinyl school floor but cut into the pattern of an 1812 viewing gallery, challenging how those materials and worlds work together. The final product is what Jenkins refers to as a “playground”; an open set with different levels for the actors to play on that allows the audience to see the mechanics of the changes happening in the play, mixing the audience and performance space.
Jenkins’ goal was to craft each time period as truthfully as possible before finding ways to playfully merge the two together. A mass visual library of costume imagery and set possibilities took shape over months of discussion back and forth finally made its way from London to Dundee, the same trip Mary Shelley herself takes at the start of her adventure.
Dundee Rep takes design outside the theatre itself too. Their next show, Mobile, is set in an actual caravan, an intimate show that has design running through it with the idea of class and taste in the way we dress, and the way we decorate our homes. From wallpaper to tattoos we are making statements about ourselves.
The theatre teamed up with local game development studio Quartic Llama (now known as Biome Collective) and the National Theatre of Scotland to design Other, a free alternate reality sound game for the iPhone. Other takes you on a horror journey around the streets of Dundee featuring puzzles, stories, surprises and spine-tingling, sinister audio!
Starting at Dundee Rep Theatre and using the iPhone’s satellite tracking, the game guides you around the city – and unlocks shocks and surprises when you reach key locations. University of Abertay and Dundee Rep Theatre have also worked in partnership with the Llamas to give us the heebie- jeebies.
Other was inspired by, and created to support, the equally spookily awesome looking Let the Right One In – a stage adaptation by Jack Thorne based on the Swedish novel and film by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
You can still download the Other app and take the guided – but terrifying – tour from Itunes. For more information on Rep productions, go to www.dundeerep.co.uk
Jennifer K. Bates is assistant director of Monstrous Bodies.