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Mary’s Daughter | The Space (Online Livestream)

Mary's Daughter is written by Kaya Bucholc and Will Wallace, and is directed by Kay Brattan. Through a three way conversation between the 18th Century feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft (Megan Carter) and her two daughters, author Mary Shelley (Rachael Reshma) and Fanny Imlay (Kaya Bucholc), the show sets out to educate the audience about the lives of these three women and the impact they've had on the world and each other. A thorough exploration of their lives results in a show akin to a history lesson. 

The show dives deep into the tragic lives of the three women, and the many personal struggles that they faced. Breaking the fourth wall, the three performers directly address the audience as they begin to share their story. The characters are aware that they've all died and reflect on their past lives. However being a family, they often lapse into a familial banter, interrupting and interjecting with forgotten or additional information. This initialy makes for a fun and engaging watch, but becomes distracting when the audience are trying to focus on the new facts being thrown their way.  

The show benefits by focusing most on Fanny Imlay, Mary's first and illegitimate daughter who tries to hold the family together. Often overshadowed by other family members, it was nice to celebrate a less glamorous but equally important and interesting historical figure. With a truly depressing life, Fanny wins the audience sympathy and are moved most by her pitiable conditions of a very young death. Reflecting on their past and legacies lead to a rather thought provoking segment, where they examine how the present has been affected and where works still needs to be done. A gentle reminder into the liberal and feminist ideals of Mary Wollstonecraft, and a wonderful metaphor about life and Mary Shelley's famous novel, Frankenstein, close the show. 

Having watched it on the livestream from the Space Theatre, my experience of the more immersive elements were hindered due to camera angles. The three performers begin the show by wandering amidst the audience's seats and closing window blinds. They frequently come into the audience, continuing to deliver lines. 

The set is quite simple, with screens set about for the actors to hide behind, and a number of chairs which work to create a few moments of physical movement (Marysia Bucholc). The three performers - Carter, Reshma and Bucholc - are dressed in long black dresses. Adorning these are three different shawls to help differentiate.

The play, understandably, leans into the works of both Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, often incorporating direct quotes into the play. Whilst this does satisfy the element of what the show intends to do, it's also tiring and a little hard to follow. With both works written to be read, rather than performed, it presents as a vastly different tone which doesn't quite fit in the conversational style that the play is written in. 

The show's ever looming issue however is in how it chooses to interact with the script. Despite a well written script and fascinating approach to introducing these historical figures, there is a lack of emotional attachment to the actual dialogues and story. Stuffed with one detail too many, the play struggles to rise above the weight of its insistence on historical accuracy. It is weighed down by the endless facts, other minor character names, their relationships, and location names. However it does present a sense of being overwhelmed, which further establishes the importance of their bond, as the sisters faced it together. 

Mary's Daughter is a piece of writing with great ideas. Clear in what it sets out to do, and with some beautiful quotes peppered through, it is a pleasantly unusual ghost story that is to be appreciated.  


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Billy Steel


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