Bloody Poetry Jermyn Street Theatre 3.30 pm 04 February

**

This is a 1984 Howard Brenton play about the lives of Shelley and his womenfolk and Lord Byron.  Which end by being fucked up, especially the women.  It had rather a typical matinee audience that looked as though  it was in a lot better condition 28 years ago (but then so was I).

The argument I took from the play was that the desire of the characters to free themselves from the social and political constraints of their time–to utterly transform themselves and the world–was undermined by the lack of a sufficient basis, either of contraception that would allow free love or of a Socialist theory that would engage the masses.

This was the position represented by Rhiannon Sommers as Mary Shelley–that one had to keep on living and do what one could in the world–and I thought she put in by far the best performance of the evening.  With many others, I just didn’t feel that these were people eaten up and ablaze with ideas and passions–it was all very restrained and underplayed.

Brenton’s text did suffer by comparison with the passages of Shelley he inserted (Byron was never I think allowed a poetical word), though the passage where (the spirit of )  Shelley’s first wife said she would go with him to Italy and be no trouble–very small–no more than a stain was poetical and moving and effective. I could live with the Daily Mail being introduced before its time, but Lord Byron expressing himself in the language of paperback socialism was a bit hard to take.

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