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Shelley | Camden People's Theatre

Presented and created by Gash Theatre, Shelley is a multimedia exploration of feminist horror. Upon entering the space, the audience is met with what looks like a room in Patrick Bateman’s startling stark apartment. Plastic tarps cover the walls and floor, and it’s hard to tell if the audience are about to watch a slaughtering or be slaughtered themselves. This set served as much as practical precaution for easy clean up as it did as a creative and interactive set piece.

Horror is so often regarded as a masculine genre, but horror audiences are overwhelmingly

female. Horror provides a catharsis and release, allowing female audiences to lose themselves in the imagined violence played out on screen, escaping the everyday violence in our own lives. This balletic bloodbath of a play is, at times, bizarre, and always brilliant. Using a series of burlesque and drag numbers connected by an overarching narrative, Shelley is whip smart, visceral, pointed, and absolutely mad.

Shelley, titled after actress Shelley Duvall, investigates the place of women in the horror genre and questions “whether it is truly as misogynistic as we fear, or instead a celebration of the craft of female hysteria”. However, this is not just a play about Shelley Duvall. She serves a muse; a surrogate for women all over. Her heartbeat and presence are felt, not just in the title of the piece, but in the room. This piece allows her to stand in her power and enact the revenge so sorely owed her for her tremendous suffering.

One need not be familiar with the tragic story of the abuse Shelley Duvall suffered at the hands of Stanley Kubrick during the filming of The Shining to understand the themes and inspiration of the play. The creators do a stellar job of not just painting it for the audience, wasting not a single moment or word, but also of speaking to serious themes of misogyny, violence against femme bodies, and abuse through the lens of horror while never taking themselves too seriously. Shelley trusts its audience to follow along and rewards them with much needed humour.

This piece did a fantastic job of harmoniously marrying multimedia and performance and

beautifully paid homage to final girls both fictional and non. It reminds its audience why women are so well suited for the horror genre: for us the real horrors are not the monsters we see on camera, but the ones behind it.

If I had to offer a critique of Shelley, it would be that it’s not longer. It easily could have served as a multipart visual and interactive dissertation on feminist horror that included more

references, cabaret numbers, and (of course) gor(e)gous splash zone antics.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Roisin Grace


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