Mary Shelley Sees The Future by Olivia Lilley
Olivia Lilley’s latest work “Mary Shelley Sees The Future” feels particularly timely given the ever-increasing generational gap that seems to define our current moment. Brexit, the election of Trump, these events show there is a conflict between those who have benefited from progress versus those who have been left behind by progress. Within her play she splits the screen in two: on one hand is seeing the antiquated world through the eyes of modernity, and on the other is seeing modernity through the eyes of someone who traveled a progressive path in the past. By offering up such a strange balance, Olivia Lilley is able to offer commentary on both.
Modernity can be considered beautiful in how far it has traveled to finally arrive. With so much innovation, both in terms of technology and art, there is something intimidating about all that has come to pass. The steady flow of progress means there is a lot that has already been done. Such a thought can resign a person to a defeated pose, whereas before they might have been a soloist now they are a mere voice in the choir. Unable to differentiate themselves from the pack, they find themselves in a position to which they are unaccustomed. Recently, there have been a number of events that have served as a backlash to this feeling of inferiority, of witnessing the rest of the world improve while one’s own lot has either stagnated or outright decreased. Certainly Mary Shelley finds this to be the case as she dives headfirst into a world where culture ages quite rapidly. Indeed, oftentimes she realizes that creating a classic in the modern age is far more difficult, the populations have increased and with it, so has the talent.
With Mya, Olivia Lilley offers a counterbalance to that impulse. Sent to the past, Mya develops a newfound appreciation for exactly what Mary Shelley went through to create her masterworks. Though Mary Shelley certainly is infinitely talented, Mya comes to appreciate the struggle that modernity has ultimately reduced, in many ways quite significantly. Conversely, Mya also understands that there remains a great deal more effort on her part in order to rise and create a classic, timeless work in the modern era. For the finale of the play Olivia Lilley contemplates what such a devotion to craft might entail, of how such a path might emerge for Mya and how Mya could actualize her artistic impulses into a lasting body of work.
Quite lovely in its contemplation of work, of what it means to be a woman in the arts both in the past and present, Olivia Lilley’s “Mary Shelley Sees The Future” is a playful, humorous work one with a decidedly unique take on the world.