Mary Anning – A woman’s story from rags to international recognition

I must admit that I was concerned that “The Fossil Lady or Lyme” would be a bit of a hard sell for our Spot On promoters. I have seen two of Alison Neil’s shows previously, The Sixth Wife and the Shakespeare Ladies Club. I know that Alison is one of the best biographical writers and performative storytellers around. Her research is impeccable, as is the way she brings this to the stage in an engaging, witty and informative way. Truth be told, I’d never heard of Mary Anning the geologist and on the surface the subject sounded a bit dry. We hosted her show twice, at The Rainhall Centre in Barnoldswick and Mellor Brook. I went to the second night in Mellor Brook.

I am so glad that I went. This is a story of rags to international recognition. It is a story of a woman who helped revolutionise science in an age when women were not taken seriously. She helped set the scene for evolution over creationism and did this as a poverty stricken working class girl with little (or no) formal education. Wow, what a story.

This was as much a show about the attitude to women in the early nineteenth century as it was about geology and fossils.

20150221_205308Alison offers great value and comes with an amazingly elaborate set. Her get ins and get outs must take an age – god knows what time she will have left Mellor Brook on Saturday night.

I needn’t have worried about the ‘sell’. The Rainhall Centre sold out with a week to spare to a whole new audience, namely the geology group who meet there every month, and Mellor Brook had a respectable audience of about forty, which is really wonderful as they have more of a reputation as a music venue than a regular theatre audience. Given the size of the set, there wasn’t much room for anyone else at Mellor Brook – so we’d class that as a sell out.

Mary Anning longed for recognition in her lifetime – she got some, but far less than she deserved. By amazing coincidence, last week, a newly discovered ichthyosaurus was named in her honour. You can see a clip from the BBC about it here: BBC coverage of recently discovered fossil

I loved the story, the history, the performance and the set. Another piece of theatre that I went to because someone from Spot On needed to go that thrilled and entertained me to beyond expectation.