One-Bi-One is an aspect of LynchPin which focuses on one-person performances combining biography with autobiography.
Following a period of intensive research, we write these scripts ‘on our feet’ in the devising process,. We aim to tie together the creative process between writer and actor, director and performer, and the biographical and autobiographical. The plays reflect the relationship of the performer to the historical subject of the play, and of the reader to the written word.
Our focus is uniquely on historical, (mostly) literary figures and their influence on the individual and the world at large. Our productions bring these figures into the present through creating performances where actor and subject meet, enabling a dialogue between the actor, the subject and the audience, allowing the interplay between biography and autobiography. This is generally in the genre of spoken-word and story telling. We use set pieces rather than sets making our venue get-ins quick and simple and each of our productions can be performed in full-scale theatres, intimate studios, or alternative spaces with or without full lighting, and little or no sound requirements, depending on the show.
Emily Dickinson & I
the journey of a portrayal
by Edie Campbell and Jack Lynch
Appearing Friday July 7 & Saturday July 8 at 8pm; Sunday July 9 at 4pm At the Woods Hole Community Hall, Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543
Tickets at Eight Cousins Bookstore, Falmouth: $12, $15 at the door
Movingly told and intensely personal, actress Edie Campbell tells the story of the attempt to produce the work that will capture Emily’s essence “using only Emily’s words.” Its a play about writing, acting, and getting into Emily Dickinson’s dress. Buy the script here.
‘…absolutely flawless. A courageous and very personal look at life and death, commitment to art and love.’ 5-STARS Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Fringe, Canada
‘a production of rare integrity‘ 4-STARS critics choice The Scotsman
‘Captivating – I recommend it unreservedly.’ Margaret Drabble, Hot Tickets, Evening Standard
“This remarkable one-woman production…is a very good one. Campbell’s delivery of both the poems and portions of the letters . . . is absolutely flawless. A courageous and very personal look at life and death, commitment to art and love.” 5-STARS Edmonton Journal, Canada
“Emily Dickinson & I leaves you with the realization and the belief that in a world scarred by violence and betrayal, extraordinary beauty still abounds.”
5-STARS SEE Magazine, Edmonton , Canada
“Campbell is passionate about Dickinson’s words-both poetry and prose-and she shares this passion with the audience, juxtaposing episodes from her own life with Dickinson’s work to create a remarkable piece that delves deeply into its own creation.” 4 1/2-STARS VUE Weekly, Canada
“Precise, intelligent and passionate . . . In the final moments of this wonderful 90 minutes, she does achieve a kind of transcendence and both performer and audience come as close to the soul of the poet as we probably ever will.” 4-STARS Edmonton Sun, Canada
“Edie Campbell is absolutely compelling… she expertly highlights what it means to be truly in love with literature… Jack Lynch’s direction borders on the serene while Sebastian Williams’ lighting design is an object lesson in theatrical subtlety. A warm and delicious paean to the bibliophile in us all – a work of sincere maturity.” 4-STARS THE LIST
“This strikingly original and carefully woven theatre piece is… refreshing and genuine… consummate and touching… a production of rare integrity, neither puffing up nor romanticising a literary figure, that impresarios and academics might have thought they owned.” 4-STARS Critics’ Choice, The Scotsman
“Campbell is electric… subtly charismatic performance… the structural finesse of [her] co-creation with director Jack Lynch… affecting honesty of this plain delivery.” TIME OUT
“In seconds any threats of self-indulgence hovering over this one-woman paean are vanquished… winning simplicity… a good dose of self-irony and happy absence of pretension… Campbell’s performance is ingenuous in spirit and well-crafted in form… Jack Lynch directs Campbell with lucidity.” THE STAGE
“…poignant and serious – it’s an uplifting and memorable evening that holds one’s attention throughout… I recommend it unreservedly.” Margaret Drabble Hot tickets, Evening Standard
“…her sincerity and passion for the poet make her ideas refreshing and strikingly original… Campbell is a fine story-teller… brutally honest… The play is the perfect balance of historical fact, Campbell’s emotional input and Dickinson’s own work… Its spirit was inspiring and Campbell’s passion contagious.” Evening Argus, Brighton
“…a master class in the art of performance… No concessions to populism, but a thoughtful and entertaining insight into a brilliant mind.” Western Daily Press
“…this play is a wonderful exercise in discovery… [it] captures a world of emotions with elegance, simplicity and a touch of humor.” Cedar Rapids Gazette, USA
“The show is sometimes comical, often poignant, and ultimately an emotionally moving experience… Campbell is hopeful, ironic, frustrated, charming, lonely and curious by turn.” Quad-City Times, USA
“strikingly original piece…” WRIETERS’ NEWS
“LynchPin Productions has achieved much.” THE STAGE
“The play is fascinating… captivating… an evening that commands attention.” Wandsworth Borough News
Note: Emily Dickinson & I was originally titled My Life Has Stood
***** SEE Magazine, Edmonton, Canada 22 August 2005
This is a play about prolific poetess Emily Dickinson; it’s a play about writing a play about Dickinson; and, ultimately, it’s a very personal glimpse into the soul of an ordinary woman whose emotions are reflected and given life through the beautiful words of Dickinson, gaining a resonance that transcends the ordinary and joyfully celebrates the fact that every life is extraordinary. Jack Lynch and Edie Campbell crafted a remarkable piece of art. Campbell’s unflinching honesty and deep respect for Dickinson imbue this quiet tour de force with such emotional depth and layers of truth that we cannot help but be seduced by both subjects of this tender, funny and poignant portrait. Campbell is a master of her craft. She effortlessly weaves a tapestry so rich in detail, love and emotional nuance that it dazzles the mind and the senses. Emily Dickinson & I leaves you with the realization and the belief that in a world scarred by violence and betrayal, extraordinary beauty still abounds.
Erik De Waal
***** The Edmonton Journal, Canada, 20 August 2005
Having a ball with the Belle of Amherst
At one point in this remarkable one-woman production, actress Edie Campbell wonders aloud whether there is ever going to be a play at all in the life of Emily Dickinson, the 19th-century reclusive poet whose work has echoed through American letters.
Indeed there is. And it is a very, very good one, written by Campbell and her husband Jack Lynch, both of the United Kingdom by way of Iowa City, Iowa.
And those whose only impression of Dickinson comes from some force-fed verse during a high school English course should take note. The Belle of Amherst, Mass., may not have been a party girl but she was a genius with wit, humour and, it should go without saying, a profound insight into the human heart.
While Dickinson may not have made you laugh back then, she will now. This uniquely structured play tells much of Dickinson’s life using her own poetry and letters — she wrote an astonishing 1,775 poems, only seven of which were published in her lifetime, and was a voluminous letter writer as well — but also speaks of Campbell’s own search to discover the “real” Emily. Campbell’s delivery of both the poems and portions of the letters — one of which describes the death of a local soldier in a Civil War battle is deeply moving — is absolutely flawless.
By weaving her own story in with that of Dickinson’s, she is clearly taking a chance the effect will be one of shameless self-indulgence as she discusses her first failed marriage and the sad death of her father from a disease not unlike Alzheimer’s.
To her credit and that of co-author and director Lynch there is none of that here. What you have, instead, is a courageous and very personal look at life and death, commitment to art and love.
Dickinson once rather famously enjoined us all to “tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”
This is a life told slant. Emily would probably have approved.
****½ VUE Weekly, Edmonton, Canada, 25 August 2005
For much of its ninety minutes, Emily Dickinson & I seems to barely exist; in fact, that nonexistence is exactly what it’s about on the surface, as Edie Campbell recounts her years-long effort to write a play about Emily Dickinson. At its heart, though, this is a tale about creation, and a challenging one at that. Campbell is passionate about Dickinson’s words-both poetry and prose-and she shares this passion with the audience, juxtaposing episodes from her own life with Dickinson’s work to create a remarkable piece that delves deeply into its own creation.
**** Edmonton Sun, Canada, 25 August 25 2005
Emulating Emily – Single-minded obsession pays off for actress Campbell
Emily Dickinson, we learn from this lively and engrossing play, was almost unknown and nearly unpublished in her own lifetime.
Since her death, she has come to be regarded, along with Walt Whitman, as one of the two great American poets of the 19th century. She was reclusive – living nearly her whole life in the Dickinson homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts. For 15 years she never ventured outside her home. Beyond the basic facts, and the incredible richness of her poems and letters, little is known of her.
If we are to believe her, writer/performer Edie Campbell has spent much of her life trying to write a play about the poet. We follow as her life becomes the focus of her story. Oh my, this is dangerous territory. How easily this could become precious and self-indulgent – “I have this play about a poet but it’s really about me, me, me.”
But Campbell skillfully weaves the story of Dickinson through her own life and the two women, living in different centuries, take us on a journey with them. Dickinson’s words illuminate the dark and point the way. The poet’s life confounds and fascinates the actress as she pursues her career, moves from England to Iowa, gets married, divorced and becomes painfully aware of the mortality of her own mother and father. “I am infatuated – obsessed with Emily Dickinson,” she tells us. Her words express my feelings as I never could.”
Campbell’s years as a professional actress are obvious on stage. She is precise, intelligent and passionate. She changes voice and slides easily into various characters. Her pedantic teacher with overhead slides is a hoot. She obviously venerates Dickinson, but when she says her words, they tumble form her as if from the agile mind of the Belle of Amherst herself. It is surprising how current and modern the 175-year-old poet is.
Says the co-author (with her husband Jack Lynch), “Ever since I first met Emily I have wanted to be her. Portray her. No! Be her.”
In the final moments of this wonderful 90 minutes, she does achieve a kind of transcendence and both performer and audience come as close to the soul of the poet as we probably ever will.
**** THE LIST, 24 August 2000
The ultimate play about the life of Emily Dickinson
This is really a Radio 4 play writ large – wilfully middle class and highbrow, it is still a fascinating look at one individual’s obsession with the Belle of Amherst and her ethereal body of work.
Edie Campbell is absolutely compelling as an actress in the process of writing a homage to her heroine. Drawing a contrast between her own life and that of Dickinson’s she expertly highlights what it means to be truly in love with literature. My Life Has Stood takes Alan Bennett’s Talking Head monologues as a template, and it has to be said that Campbell’s control of tone and pace is almost as strong as that of the Governor. She weaves a web of adolescent frustration, longing and hero worship around her audience, and you leave the auditorium determined to get yourself down to Waterstone’s to invest in a copy of Dickinson’s Letters and Poems.
Jack Lynch’s direction borders on the serene while Sebastian Williams’ lighting design is an object lesson in theatrical subtlety. A warm and delicious paean to the bibliophile in us all, if you love Dickinson you will love this – a work of sincere maturity.
**** Critic’s Choice, The Scotsman, 10 August 2000
This strikingly original and carefully woven theatre piece is playwright-performer, Edie Campbell’s account of her search for material about the 19th century New England poet, Emily Dickinson. As parts of the refreshing and genuine story of Campbell’s own life are presented, the real Dickinson also unfolds. By the end, Dickinson is in the ascendant, Campbell having turned wholly into Emily by donning the white costume we are told Dickinson always wore from the time her father died.
This sounds a bit Jekyll and Hyde, but it’s not – it’s consummate and touching. The strapline on the programme, “A one-woman play about the process of writing, acting and getting into Emily Dickinson’s dress”, does not give any idea of how expertly Campbell turns a reclusive spinster from a bygone day into the strong-minded philosopher, rugged individualist and delicious ironist that she clearly was.
The search that Campbell made was for “the real Emily, the undiluted Emily, our Emily”, and for a means of being Dickinson’s mouthpiece “without getting in her way”.
Theatre veterans should enjoy Campbell’s description of how she was repeatedly told, on both sides of the Atlantic, “Yes, but you haven’t got a play.” My Life Has Stood is a production of rare integrity, neither puffing up nor romanticising a literary figure, that impresarios and academics might have thought they owned.
TIME OUT, 29 August 2001
Yes, a one-woman show about creating a one-woman show does sound as if it might be inclined towards the navel. But that’s before you’ve witnessed Edie Campbell’s subtly charismatic performance, or taken into account the fact that Emily Dickinson, the notoriously reclusive nineteenth-century poet from Massachusetts, is no ordinary subject matter.
Dickinson’s voice is both deeply unsettling and challenging (‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’). It can be giddy with inebriation or chilly with gloom. With only seven poems published in her lifetime, she leaves a legacy of 1775 poems, 1,049 letters, and (as Campbell points out) 5,000 internet links. It’s taken 14 years to condense this material into an audience-friendly format. Seamlessly, Campbell slips in and out of the parallels and asymmetries between the ‘Belle of Amherst’ and her own life: Emily’s intense need to embrace solitude is mirrored, for example, by Campbell’s chronic panic attacks in public places. It’s against the background of Campbell’s divorce that we hear Emily’s simultaneously self-effacing and quizzical remark: ‘All men say “What?” to me’. And as the biographical becomes autobiographical, it’s a curious pun that Emily’s initials ED (as used for editorial purposes) should echo Campbell’s own name, Edie.
‘Put it on Radio 4, in installments,’ Campbell’s friends advised her when her work-in-progress came down from a whopping nine hours to an anorexic 45 minutes. If they overlooked the structural finesse of Campbell’s co-creation with director Jack Lynch and the affecting honesty of this plain delivery, there are times when an under-visualised, overzealous tone is allowed to creep in. But Campbell is electric when she follows Dickinson’s nose for danger: ‘That’s what they call a metaphor in our country. Don’t be afraid of it, sir, it won’t bite.’ And when she finally puts on the white dress she’s been pinning, tacking and ironing throughout, the transformation is uncanny: this ‘journey of a portrayal’ has a richly suggestive arrival.
THE STAGE, 6 September 2001
“There she is!” Edie Campbell declares, dumping a hefty pile of papers at her feet. In seconds, any threats of self-indulgence hovering over this one-woman paean to poet and belle of Amherst, Emily Dickinson, are vanquished.
It is with winning simplicity that Campbell weaves a tale of an actress’s bid to dramatise the life of her literary heroine. Sat among the books, annotated letters and fat manuscript of a monster first draft, she confides her obsession with a good dose of self-irony and happy absence of pretension – “I am an actress, I am not a playwright… so what am I trying to do?”
After 14 years in the making, what Campbell has mustered is the low-key dramatisation of two biographies.
Her own experiences and struggle to write become a neat device to explore the life and works of the poetess to which she has long been in thrall, while solving the riddle of how to keep Dickinson’s voice distinct from her own.
With wry humour she spoofs her fantasist conviction – swiftly dismantled, though ever-seductive – that she is the 19th century poetess reincarnated (“Edie, Emily Dickinson. ED. It’s obvious!”) and assumes the brisk accents of a prissy school-ma’am to ease us entertainingly through the requisite Dickinson chronology.
Criss-crossing from caricature to straight recitals of poems and letters, through frank and informal accounts of her own various crises and oddities, Campbell’s performance is ingenuous in spirit and well-crafted in form.
Co-creator Jack Lynch directs Campbell with lucidity and a methodical hand which allows the actress’s devotion to her subject to shine through without surfeit, inspiring the enthusiasm of her audience.
The Evening Standard Hot Tickets, 16 August 2001
Margaret Drabble on Emily Dickinson & I
I saw Emily Dickinson & I at Guildford before last year’s Edinburgh Festival where it received such excellent notices. Obviously it’s about Emily Dickinson, who was a well-known recluse, but it also deals with the actress’s own attempt to write a play about her heroine, so the two themes are intermingled. It’s a wonderful story – very captivating, and extremely well thought out.
The actress is Edie Campbell, who I have a personal interest in because she was at Oxford with my daughter. She wrote the play herself but uses pertinent letters and poems for illustration. It’s directed by Jack Lynch, her partner. There’s an extraordinary transformation towards the end when she seems to age and become Emily Dickinson. The lighting is vital for that scene. We also saw it in Somerset House at the Royal Society of Literature, where they didn’t have appropriate lighting but it was still powerful. Edie is from North America so there are no problems with accents, she carries all that off perfectly. I think she’s a star in the making, especially as this is an intense one-woman piece, and her performance is marvelous. We went with a lot of friends, all of whom were impressed. The play is extremely funny in parts, at other times poignant and serious – it’s an uplifting and memorable evening that holds one’s attention throughout. It is apparent that the actress loves and has studied her subject, and she throws interesting light on the poet’s life. I recommend it unreservedly.
The Evening Argus, Brighton, 21 September 2000
Poetry reveals parallel lines
When I sat down to watch Edie Campbell’s one-woman show My Life Has Stood I knew nothing about the American poet Emily Dickinson, other than that she was American and a poet. An hour or so later, I walked away with her life story and her words echoing in my mind. From ignorance I was introduced to Emily, the poet, the recluse, the genius, the mad woman and the myth.
But while learning about the 19th Century New England writer, who penned thousands of poems and letters, we also learned about the actress who stood before us. My Life Has Stood charts the real-life story of Campbell’s love affair with Dickinson’s work and her struggle to write a play which reflects ‘the real Emily, the undiluted Emily, our Emily’.
Campbell carefully weaves her world in and out of Dickinson’s. Dickinson’s initials are ED, Campbell’s name is Edie, Dickinson suffers panic attacks, so does Campbell, Dickinson’s father died and so did Campbell’s — the links go on. This may sound as though Campbell is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic but her sincerity and passion for the poet make her ideas refreshing and strikingly original. The actress discusses the possibility she may be the reincarnation of Emily and believes she is on a life mission to conquer Emily’s failings. She talks us through a variety of amusing and endearing examples, which include straining to love housework and refusing to learn the piano. With an air of humour and fun she takes us on a search for the root of her Emily fixation.
Campbell is a fine story-teller who discusses her life, the breakup of her marriage, her father’s death and her obsession with Dickinson in a brutally honest fashion. The play is the perfect balance of historical fact, Campbell’s emotional input and Dickinson’s own work.
My Life Has Stood is a touching although thankfully not gushing play, quite rightly awarded a four-star review by The Scotsman during the Edinburgh Festival. Its spirit was inspiring and Campbell’s passion contagious. I suspect there will be a lot of Dickinson’s poetry sold in the next couple of days.
Western Daily Press, 21 October 2004
For 90 minutes Edie Campbell held the audience’s attention with a seamless performance as she unravelled the life of Emily Dickinson.
The journey of a portrayal was part of the Bristol Poetry Festival – an event I’m sure the 19th-century American poet would have approved of.
The one-woman play, devised by Edie Campbell and Jack Lynch, had Emily Dickinson’s white dress as its central symbol. The actress gave an autobiographical account of her own journey of discovery of the poet’s life.
As she did so she recited the concise and image-loaded lines that reflected the moods and thoughts (mainly about love and relationships) that the hermit-like poet had written in the solitude of her bedroom.
Students of drama would have found this portrayal a master class in the art of performance. Clear precise diction, excellent poise and exquisite timing. No concessions to populism, but a thoughtful and entertaining insight into a brilliant mind.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette, 2 March 2002
For those in the audience who, like this reviewer, are vaguely familiar with Dickinson ’s works but lack intimate knowledge or depth of understanding of her quirky, beautiful, sometimes abstruse art, this play is a wonderful exercise in discovery.
Campbell has long been fascinated by the life and works of Dickinson and does a marvellous job of portraying the New England recluse as she excerpts several of Dickinson’s poems and letters.
The letters are especially revealing of the woman’s remarkable command of the English language, as well as of her personal prejudices and longings.
The title of the play, “Emily Dickinson & I,” gives a clue to another aspect of the drama. As she peruses the life of Dickinson, Campbell is led to look at her own life, perceiving parallels therein.
The play becomes touchingly autobiographical as Campbell switches from the words of Dickinson to reminiscences of her own past.
Campbell is a highly skilled, sensitive actor who in 90 minutes captures a world of emotions with elegance, simplicity and even at times a touch of humor. One cannot help but feel that the real Emily Dickinson would have approved of her portrayal.
Quad-City Times, USA, 2 March 2002
Captivating story and performance create emotional one-woman show
“Emily Dickinson and I: the Journey of a Portrayal” is a one-woman show about an actress who wants to write a play about her favorite poet. Billed as a “devised work,” this play is about Emily Dickinson, but it’s equally about the actress, Edie Campbell, who struggled for years to develop a script that would do justice to the poet she admired.
The resulting show is often autobiographical: Edie simply compares and contrasts her own life with what she knows of Emily’s. The results are sometimes comical, often poignant, and ultimately are an emotionally moving experience.
You don’t need to love Dickinson’s poetry to “get” this show, or even know very much about her work, but those who do will have an additional layer of appreciation of “Emily.”
The script and style of the show are strong elements, and director/co-creator Jack Lynch (Campbell’s husband) certainly shares the credit for the material as well as the way it is presented, though he does not appear on stage. Lighting designer Sebastian Williams also makes an impact here, with subtle but evocative work that perfectly enhances every line.
As an audience, though, it is Campbell’s strong work that we really see. Mostly first-person narrative, with short impressions interspersed on occasion, “Emily” is 90 minutes of an engaging story told by an equally engaging performer. Campbell works on some sewing, talks about her father, shares the experience of a panic attack, reads some of her favorite poems, and weaves all of this and more into a coherent whole. She is hopeful, ironic, frustrated, charming, lonely and curious by turn, and she moves easily through all these and more as she shares her life and work with us.
Clearly Lynch and Campbell make a good team, and it is equally obvious that she is a wonderfully gifted performer.
“Emily” is more than these things, I think. Campbell gives us heart and soul, sweat and tears, love and loss. This is the journey of a woman into full adulthood, into full certainty of herself as an artist, into full acceptance of life and all its imperfections. She takes us there, and we are glad.
WRITERS’ NEWS, May 2001
When an actress decided to write a one-woman play about her favourite poet Emily Dickinson, she found herself on an unexpected journey: was it a biographical or autobiographical portrayal?
Playwright-performer Edie Campbell’s strikingly original piece is an account of her search for material about the 19th century writer who penned thousands of poems and letters. My Life Has Stood charts the real-life story of Campbell’s love affair with Dickinson’s work and her struggle to write a play that reflects ‘the real Emily, the undiluted Emily, our Emily.’ Campbell describes how she was repeatedly told, on both sides of the Atlantic: ‘Yes, but you haven’t got a play.’ A successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last August – garnering two four-star reviews – proves that she has got a play and a good one at that.
THE STAGE, 10 August 2000
Actress Edie Campbell has spent the last 14 years with a quiet obsession for Emily Dickinson, America’s finest female poet, mythical recluse and prolific correspondent. And for most of that time, Campbell has been striving to bring a play about Dickinson to the stage.
Unable to separate her own character from that of her subject, Campbell eventually decided to tell her own story of discovery. It is not quite the biographical play she envisaged, perhaps, but it works extremely well as an introduction to the life and work of this fine wordsmith and hyper-intelligent woman.[Campbell] has the measure of Dickinson’s poetry and her often witty and pointed letters… LynchPin Productions has achieved much, being faithful to both the spirit and words of Emily Dickinson.
Wandsworth Borough News, 31 August 2001
Obsession makes for a compulsive night
The play is fascinating. It is a personal account of a woman obsessed with Emily Dickinson, and being an actress, desperately trying to create both a vehicle for herself and a paean of praise for the poet by whom she is fascinated.
She does give a most complete performance that made me feel I was alone with her and the entire evening was for me – the house was full by the way. She is an attractive performer with a dazzling array of styles of attack.
The play itself, although autobiographical, has been adapted from her own passion by Jack Lynch. He directs with a sure hand and has attractively staged the play, which is brilliantly lit by Seb Williams.
Edie Campbell captivated me from the start and kept up the magic right through to the quite moving yet simple ending.
It is not a gentle ramble through someone’s life, it is an evening that commands attention and that led, quite naturally, to enormous appreciation and applause. Go.
and all major and independent bookstores.
Forward for Emily Dickinson & I, the journey of a portrayal
by Margaret Drabble
I first saw Edie Campbell’s portrayal of Emily Dickinson in an intimate theatre in Guildford, and vividly remember the excitement of that evening. The performance was brave, true and touching, and the unfolding story was easy to follow and gripping to watch. It is a story of obsession, identification, admiration and respect. The background information about Dickinson’s life and work is conveyed so subtly and effortlessly that one realises only later how much has been packed into this short and personal evocation of one of America’s greatest but most enigmatic poets. The playwright has managed to dramatise, without betrayal or exaggeration, the life of a recluse. whose outward life was remarkable for its lack of events, but whose inner life was of a fierce, at times melodramatic, intensity. Using only the simplest of props, she manages to evoke the physical presence of the poet, and to suggest the small Amherst community in which she lived. Like Dickinson herself, she has pared down her message to its essentials. Technically, this is a remarkable achievement.
Edie Campbell discloses, within the play itself, both the nature of her obsession, and her long struggle to find an appropriate approach to her subject matter – an approach which took nearly twenty years to discover, and which involved many false starts and periods of despondency. Campbell’s own presence on stage and in the text is not intrusive or indulgent, for it appears as a necessary embodiment of her search. Recent biographers, such as Richard Holmes in his pioneering work Footsteps, have created a precedent for using the difficulties, even the failures of research, as part of the plot of their work: this play carries the process one step further, by including the person of the seeker as a physical image of the one who is sought. The quest for Dickinson is interwoven with Campbell’s questioning of the artistic role, and the contradictions of the artistic temperament – a temperament that paradoxically combines an urge to display and an urge to withdraw and conceal.
The decision to restrict the use of the poet’s voice to the words of her own poems and letters must be correct. Inventing dialogue or commentary for such an eccentric and powerful writer would have been an impossible task, for her use of language in unique, and any imitation could only emerge as parody. The poems incorporated in the play are carefully chosen from the wealth of Dickinson’s oeuvre, and will encourage the reader or spectator to seek for more. The poems are brilliant, elliptical, condensed: each one requiring further reflection. They shine out like jewels from the text, which provides a fine setting for them. Edie Campbell has managed to pay a very personal tribute to the writer whose work has haunted her for so long, while at the same time allowing her to speak for herself, in her own words. It is a very ingenious solution to an unusual dramatic and biographical problem. The solution was found with the support and help of friends and colleagues, whose suggestions are incorporated into the fabric and narrative of the play, but at the end, the final impression is of the poet herself, speaking out loud and clear, across time, to each new audience. And this is what the playwright would wish.
Emily Dickinson & I, the journey of a portrayal is featured in the chapter “Dickinson in England and Ireland”,
in Continuum Books’ The International Reception of Emily Dickinson
Edited by Domhnall Mitchell and Maria Stuart
(The excerpt follows a discussion of the fictional representation of Emily Dickinson in the novel Possession by A. S. Byatt:)
“A.S. Byatt’s fictional dialogue with Emily Dickinson has an indirect link with another artistic response to the poet: the one-woman play Emily Dickinson and I, written by Edie Campbell and Jack Lynch and first performed at the Mill Studio, Guilford, Surrey, in December 1999. The foreword to the published play (Campbell and Lynch 2005) is provided by Byatt’s sister and fellow novelist, Margaret Drabble and describes her response to that first production. Drabble is particularly attuned to the links between Campbell’s strategy for resolving her problems with staging Dickinson (her decision to place herself, wrestling with the material of Dickinson’s life, at the very centre of the play) and recent developments within the genre of biography in which the biographer ‘uses the difficulties, even the failures of research, as part of the plot of their work’(Drabble, Foreward). Subtitled ‘The Journey of a Portrayal’, Campbell and Lynch’s production charts the long, fourteen-year process during which Campbell attempted to find an adequate dramatic form through which to give voice to Dickinson (moving from a nine-hour version of the play, utilizing numerous poems and letters) towards the pared down, minimalist intensity of the final play. According to Campbell’s co-writer and partner Jack Lynch, a breakthrough came with the realization that the core of the work was ‘a play about a play that never happened, a meditation on writing, acting, and getting into Emily Dickinson’s dress’ (Lynch, 17). Thus, the play opens with Campbell walking onto a bare stage, carrying a large pile of papers:
SHE TURNS CS; FACES AUDIENCE; DROPS PAPERS ONTO THE FLOOR; SLIGHT PAUSE
There she is.
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson.
The papers represent the copious research of many years, the (ultimately) unspoken lines and unperformed gestures that Campbell has carried with her during that time. They occupy a central place in the play as a physical embodiment of the ‘play that never happened,’ present on stage, and yet necessarily absent from the drama that follows. The initial gesture of throwing them down registers as both an act of release (allowing Campbell, finally, to move forward) and as a poignant example (resonant for any writer, academic or creative) of the particular challenge of representing this poet’s life and work. What follows is a play in which the difficulty of the material, the resistance of Dickinson’s life and work to narrative shaping, becomes, in itself, the organizing principle of the piece. The stage becomes the very space in which Campbell dramatizes her difficulty and declares her own personal and professional investment in the work. Unlike William Luce’s infamous The Belle of Amherst (a shadow over any subsequent attempt to dramatize Dickinson and one that Campbell addresses within the play) Emily Dickinson and I strives to open out, rather than close down the interpretative possibilities of the work and the life. Like the poetry itself, it achieves this by foregoing coherence and expansion in favour of a condensed style, one in which the narrative is fragmented by the incursions into Dickinson’s ‘story’ of Campbell’s own family narrative. Like a dramatic embodiment of the Dickinson dash, the play jumps between time and place, juxtaposing Campbell’s personal history and Dickinson’s life and work, in subtle, suggestive ways. At one point, the death of Campbell’s own father (a charismatic figure, but one often absent from her childhood) is juxtaposed with one of Dickinson’s letters on her father’s death (L414), in a way that allows both deaths (and both relationships) to inform each other. The play ends where it started, with Campbell asking Lynch for help with shaping her various drafts into a realisable play:
I gather all my versions of Emily in my arms,
walk into the centre of the living room,
and throw them on the floor in
‘There she is,’
‘is your opening line!’
Possession and Emily Dickinson and I, represent two of the most significant creative responses to Dickinson within England in recent years.”
Maria Stuart, ‘Dickinson in England and Ireland’ in The International Reception of Emily Dickinson, Continuum, 2009, pp 217-218
By kind permission of the Continuum International Publishing Group
Cloning Mary Shelley
Cloning Mary Shelley, a fantasia
by Edie Campbell and Jack Lynch
Drawing on Mary Shelley’s life and her novel Frankenstein, this solo performance explores reproductive technology, the act of creation in all its dimensions, and the struggle to know who and what one is.
“This is a work of great empathy and invention, a model for monologists. ” 5-STARS Edmonton Journal
“Campbell, like her subject, is a great creator . . . her set [is] an exploding wunderkabinet . . . a clever manifestation of a rich brain at work.” Prague Fringe 2007
“This is a work of great empathy and invention, a model for monologists. ” 5-STARS Edmonton Journal
“Intellectually rigorous, elegantly written and exquisitely performed.” 4-STARS SEE Magazine
“Edie Campbell is a spellbinder.” 3 1/2-STARS Edmonton Sun
“…experience the gently astringent wit and plangent poignancy of Edie Campbell’s Mary Shelley – Frankenstein‘s creator as never seen before.” 4-STARS www.edfringe.com/reviews/
“…an intricate and entirely coherent fugue of thought, image, and emotion on reproductive technology, the act of creation, and one’s ability to know who and what one is.” www.pleasance.co.uk/edin/
“…funny, thought-provoking and educational on both a scientific and literary level without being boring (quite a feat).” 4-STARS www.edfringe.com/reviews/
“Edie Campbell brings worlds within worlds within worlds alive.”
“Campbell and Lynch give us a combination of biography, literature, science, religion, mythology, philosophy and psychology.” British Theatre Guide
“Campbell is a compelling actress . . . Her timing, pace and emotional honesty are beyond reproach.” Cedar Rapids Gazette, USA
“To say the least, actress Edie Campbell is gutsy.” Iowa City Press Citizen, USA
“I found Edie Campbell’s study of Mary Shelley at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature one of the most moving, polished and profound insights I have ever encountered.” A-Level Teacher
Divadlo Nablízko, Prague Fringe, June 2007
Campbell, like her subject, is a great creator
This lone-actor piece follows Tourist like a banquet after a bun. Writer and performer Edie Campbell’s meditation on the life and work of Mary Shelly becomes a marvelous intellectual exercise that gathers together genetics, history, myth and autobiography, then invites viewers to make unlimited associative leaps between the topics. Campbell is a mind as library. In fact, her set (looking like the aftermath of an exploding wunderkabinet of books, dolls, toys and origami) is like a clever physical manifestation of a rich brain at work among its scattered possessions. You almost wish you’d brought enough tablets of paper to take notes, as Campbell freely ranges from the writing of Frankenstein to the cloning of sheep. She references plenty of interesting books, though you begin to believe that Campbell’s own personal university thesis, which situated Frankenstein within the Luddite upheavals, might be the best to curl up with on a stormy night. Cloning Mary Shelly is primarily concerned with creation, and Campbell bravely brings in her own private struggles over choosing not to have children. Still, hers will be a lucid solitude. Not everything works in this excellent piece. A debate over genetic cloning is clumsily staged and seems inorganic, an accretion. Campbell’s voice, too, occasionally strikes one as a bit too lectern-bound. Nonetheless, the actress is such a generous spirit, granting others the sheer pleasure to wonder (and wander) along with her, that the piece’s deficiencies become immaterial. Campbell, like her subject, is a great creator.
5-STARS Todd Babiak, 19 August 2006
A solid argument for seriousness at Fringe
The Fringe, historically, is not the place to be serious. Time constraints, the rewards of comedy and the great risks of sentimentality, preachiness and melodrama typically steer performers away from concerns like, say, crib death and cloning.
Let us consider the merrily contemplative success that is Cloning Mary Shelley , an argument for seriousness at the Fringe.
Edie Campbell, who had a big hit here last year with Emily Dickinson & I , exudes eloquence and authority. In Cloning Mary Shelley , Campbell pulls from Mary Shelley’s life and work, the science and history of cloning, medical ethics, personal revelation and the big, big bag of theatre.
This is a physical performance, a reading, a question-and-answer session with the audience, a lecture, a confessional and a gripping story of loss. There may be a couple of heady moments, some rhetorical gristle to be sliced, but Campbell cleverly makes every aspect of this monologue dramatic.
Campbell manoeuvres the emotional and intellectual territory of Cloning Mary Shelley with great precision, moving from Mary’s tragedies to discussions of Dolly the sheep — in a professorial German accent, yes? — expertly.
Cloning Mary Shelley is filled with elegant surprises, from the spare set to Campbell’s concluding words. This is a work of great empathy and invention, a model for monologists. © The Edmonton Journal 2006
4-STARS Eva Marie Clark SEE MAGAZINE
Intellectually rigorous, elegantly written and exquisitely performed by Edie Campbell, Cloning Mary Shelley fuses literature and science to create a chilling modern horror story. Like Victor Frankenstein, creators Jack Lynch and Edie Campbell strip the essentials from sources as disparate as Greek mythology, the writings of Mary Shelley, pop culture, genetic engineering and personal experience, assembling them into a creature unique to itself. The whole is galvanised by Campbell’s formidable stage presence and the staging is ravishing. As the elements collide, and the story grows, so too does a sick dread in the guts of the viewer. Science is now God, with dominion over the very creation of life. 190 years ago the mere notion drove Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. The irony is most strongly expressed when Campbell dons white coat, gloves, and German accent to demonstrate the possibilities of genetic tinkering with Mr. Potato Head and the history of cloning using children’s farm toys. The script also ponders childlessness. The concluding images of the piece are haunting, beautiful, but the underlying musings of this tour-de-force production will grip you even as you wend your way through the crowds to your next show.
3 1/2-STARS Colin Maclean, Edmonton Sun, 25 August 2006
Edie Campbell is a spellbinder
Her audiences are absolutely silent – hanging on her every phrase – lost in her whirling internal worlds of word, concept and thought. With the clear diction of a trained (English) actor and a remarkable ability to weave atmosphere, character and ideas into a scene, she sure knows how to hold us rapt.
There is a remarkable electricity generated between audience and performer.
Campbell is particularly adept at creating the “thrilling horror” of Shelley’s story.
4-STARS Tim Dyke, 13 August 2003
A show with Bite!
Bored of stale agit-prop standup comics? Tired of the wave of expletives that seem an integral part of “cutting-edge” satire? Like to engage the old grey matter, learn something new and be genuinely moved? Then go to experience the gently astringent wit and plangent poignancy of Edie Campbell’s Mary Shelley – Frankenstein‘s creator as never seen before. I was intrigued by the slant on modern developments in cloning, appalled by what Mrs Shelley had to endure and unbearably moved by Edie’s exploration of the childless condition. Rather like an ice-cold sorbet after the feverish pizza of so many other shows. A must-see.
Scott DeShong 12 August 2003
This one-woman performance is so rich I risk reducing it, yet here goes. Drawing on Shelley’s life and her “Frankenstein,” plus on science, mythology, and much more, the show develops an intricate and entirely coherent fugue of thought, image, and emotion on reproductive technology, the act of creation, and one’s ability to know who and what one is. Edie Campbell’s performance captivates from the start–it’s intimate and serious while being warm, energetic, and witty in all the right places. Yet the experience of the show is also very much like reading: subtle, reflective, and very personal. The show is cerebral yet profoundly moving, fully cogent yet without reducing the enigmas of the subject. “Cloning Mary Shelley” (like “Emily Dickinson and I,” performed by Campbell on alternate days) is highly original and, I think, one of the very best shows being done at the Fringe.
Pachey 74, 11 August 2003
‘Cloning Mary Shelley’ could have been one of those extremely dull, pretentious ‘investigating the author’ shows that the Fringe is littered with. But it’s not. It’s funny, thought-provoking and manages to be educational on both a scientific and literary level, without being boring (quite a feat). The lesson on cloning using Mr Potato Head and friends was inspired.
Alice Mitchell , 30 July 2003
Edie Campbell brings worlds within worlds within worlds alive. She is utterly at one with her material; with the depths and lightness that LynchPin Productions have the inspiration and sense to offer us. I hope press reviews have the sense to get people coming in droves.
British Theatre Guide, 21 May 2003
Having seen Edie Campbell’s Emily Dickinson & I at the Royal Society of Literature a couple of years ago, I was well prepared for the high standard of acting and writing in this new one-woman show. Campbell has an individual style in the way she combines details about her subject with her own life, drawing out points of similarity and difference.
If anything, Mary Shelley is an even more demanding subject than Dickinson, because so much more is known about her, making selection difficult. Campbell and Lynch give us a combination of biography, literature, science, religion, mythology, philosophy and psychology, ranging widely around the well-documented details of Shelley’s life and work.
Visually, the audience’s curiosity is aroused before the show begins: the stage is set with what looks like an operating table; four naked dolls sit on the floor in front of it, along with a scattering of books and papers. As the story unfolds, Campbell tiptoes around the various items, gradually revealing their relevance.
The mood of the piece is, on the whole, low-key and measured, counterbalanced at the centre by a parodic modern-day lecture on cloning, delivered in an excellent German accent, with plenty of Mr Potato Head figures for purposes of illustration. This was visually very stimulating, and I enjoyed the humour.
I’m pleased to see that both Dickinson and Shelley will be appearing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and wish Lynchpin all the best for their pioneering work. Gill Stoker www.britishtheatreguide.info/index.htm
Cedar Rapids Gazette, USA, 10 April 2004
Campbell is a compelling actress, holding our attention throughout the hour-and-a-half monologue. Her timing, pace and emotional honesty are beyond reproach.
About halfway through the evening she dons a white coat and spectacles, assumes a heavy German accent, and explains the process of cloning. This sequence provides not only a clear understanding of complex scientific issues but also a bit of comic relief. Then . . a very serious discussion surrounding the use of cloning is launched. It’s great material. . . The play closes on a sombre note with a touching scene in which Mary Shelley tells of the death of three of her four children. Here the woman’s humanity is illuminated in glowing strokes. Marcella Lee
Iowa City Press Citizen, USA, 9 April 2004
New play brings up numerous questions
To say the least, actress Edie Campbell is gutsy.
It takes courage to perform a 90-minute, one-woman play, and even more to share your own life with the audience. On opening night, Campbell gave the audience a lot to chew on. In “Cloning Mary Shelley”, questions of creation, technology and science were raised through Campbell and Shelley’s stories.
At first, it may seem that the two women’s lives have nothing in common, but Campbell digs deep into Shelley’s life to learn about the woman who often is in the shadow of the author. She re-creates Shelley in the play, telling not only about the making of her famed novel, but also the loss of her husband and three of her children.
Campbell mixes into the story not only her love for Shelley as an author, but her own creation of plays and the decision not to have children – a road she has learned is not without consequences. She then carefully adds into the mix the controversy over whether parents should be able to clone their children.
The play moves fast, yet because a creation thread connects everything, the play can be followed easily. Some patrons may become perplexed by the numerous questions the play asks. But more will leave thinking about the connections not only between Shelley and Campbell’s lives, but also among their own. After all, the subject of creation is personal no matter what stand a person takes on it. Deanna Truman-Cook
Teacher, Cheltenham festival of Literature, 11 October 2002
As an A-level teacher of pupils trying to approach Frankenstein with psycho-analytical and contextual understanding – I found Edie Campbell’s study of Mary Shelley at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature one of the most moving, polished and profound insights I have ever encountered. I think some of the teenagers in the audience were finding it difficult to cope with the searching references to childbirth, but most were not. I was so impressed by the production that I have recommended it to several schools. Please go on producing such remarkably original pieces.
Other biographical shows we have produced:
a multi-media staged performance
written and performed by Annie Reilly
directed by Jack Lynch
150 years ago, a generation of young women sallied forth from the shores of the good ol’ US of A and conquered Europe with their wit, charm and heaving purses of money! Welcomed by an impoverished, bemused and frankly eccentric aristocracy, they became known as The Dollar Princesses and immortalized in the novels Pandora by Henry James, and The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton.
Jenny Jerome married Randolph Churchill in 1874, Nancy Astor became the first woman elected to parliament in 1919, and in 2008 Annie Reilly, from Pennsylvania, was the first person to be awarded an MA at the Guildford School of Acting.
With ‘wit and charm’ (minus the bags of money), Annie Reilly tells the story of the DPs along side her own modern tale of a ‘self-made girl’ from the States looking to fulfill (or is it ‘fulfil’?) her Anglophile dreams.