It is often the case that a classic children’s rhyme has some sort of historical significance to them. This can be said for tongue-twister and show title, She Sells Sea Shells. In the brilliantly illustrated life of Mary Anning, Scandal and Gallows Theatre bring an educational and biographical telling of a woman nearly forgotten in history. As the rhyme suggests, young Mary Anning would sell seashells and fossils she collected on a beach near her home, using this money to feed her poverty-stricken family. It is in this instance that Mary came across a discovery that would change the way we look at prehistoric species – she found the first fossilised ichthyosaur.
Mary’s lack of accreditation for this historical discovery is where a large portion of the plot lies. As a woman in the early 19th century, she was not even allowed to enter the Geological Society due to her gender, so she could disregard being certified as the woman who discovered the world’s first account of a plesiosaur. Yet, this doesn’t stop Mary’s progressive and determined attitude. Actress Antonia Weir brings Mary to life, and by the end of the show, the audience gets a chance to appreciate the hardships she went through to provide for her family and make a name for herself amongst the scientific community.
The story feels real and having a show to illustrate the near-forgotten individuals of history is refreshing. Scandal and Gallows Theatre put on a wonderful piece of storytelling, and through the likes of Mary and the chorus, this is both a heartfelt and inspiring work of theatre. She Sells Sea Shells brings to light issues that are still relevant to modern society, as gender and social class can greatly influence success. There are a few ways you can interpret Mary’s story, but it is undeniable that she was a victim of social constructs. This is a show that celebrates female scientists who should be praised and recognised, allowing them to be remembered, as it is women like Mary Anning who will inevitably inspire future generations.