Born on the cusp of the 19th century, Mary Anning never received the credit she deserved for her invaluable contributions to the development of geology. Daughter of a cabinetmaker from the Dorset town of Lyme Regis, she spent most of her life in poverty, selling fossils to buy bread. Introduced from childhood to the wonders that laid buried in that stretch of British Channel, Mary spent her life scouting the cliffs in precarious weather conditions, searching for remains of prehistorical creatures.
Aged twelve, she found the world’s first Ichthyosaur, which sparked some new evolutionism theories. Many other invaluable specimens were also unearthed during her expeditions, whilst her name began to circulate amongst the world’s most renowned geologists and collectors. Despite her humble origins and almost entire lack of scholar education, she even taught herself to read French, all so she could read the essays of zoologist Georges Cuvier.
Throughout her life, she strived to open the conversation with the scientific community, but it would be another century before the Royal Geological Society admitted women to their meetings, even as guests. Anning resented greatly her disadvantaged position and this note of bitterness is present in Antonia Weir’s resolute portrayal.
Valiantly supported by Charlie Merriman and Emma MacLennan in a number of secondary roles, this inspiring biopic is brought to life in a moving play that combines enthralling storytelling with flowing physical elements. These sequences never feel forced into the plot, helping instead to create an evocative atmosphere that celebrate the proximity of the sea. The choice of a gorgeous cabinet as a main set piece works both as a reference to the family trade and storage for the smaller props that support the narrative.
She Sells Sea Shells is a solid performance with many fascinating features. And the story of Mary Anning is currently being turned into a film starring Kate Winslet, play and film finally giving recognition to this fascinating woman.
Author: Dr Helen Eastman
Director: Madeleine Skipsey
Producer: Scandal and Gallows Theatre
Box Office: +44 (0)131 226 0000
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/she-sells-sea-shells
Booking Until: 25 August 2019