She Sells Sea Shells

She Sells Sea Shells

A play by Helen Eastman.

Scandal & Gallows Theatre Company
@Underbelly on Cowgate, Edinburgh Festival 2019


A three-person, 40-part piece of physical storytelling of the life of Mary Anning, (21 May 1799 – 9 March 1847). Mary was a first-class paleontologist, responsible not only for finding and assembling the world’s first Ichthyosaur (age 11!) and Plesiosaur skeletons but for laying the groundwork for many of the core principles of geology. At Edinburgh Fringe 2019 I got to help tell her story. Where to begin on Mary Anning, what a woman. An autodidact who taught herself to read, and then to read french. Who knew and influenced some of the key scientists of the 1800s (and should have been recognised as one her self had not her sex and class bared her from such inclusion). Who survived being struck by lightning- twice. Who was shrewd, strong and had a wicked sense of humor- at least that’s what I get from reading her letters.  Helen Eastman’s play integrated Mary’s life and her science in a series of vignettes that spanned 40 years. It interwove hardship and resilience in a manner as layered as the sandstone cliffs of the Dorset coastline where Mary made her discoveries. I hope that Kate Winslett gets as good a go at her as I did in the upcoming blockbuster ‘Ammonite’.

‘Preparing the fossil’ from She Sells Sea Shells 2019. Performers: Emma MacLennan, Charlie Merriman, Antonia Weir

Some Review Clippings

‘An enthralling piece of storytelling’ British Theatre Guide

‘Antonia Weir has an arresting presence, slightly off-balance with an intentionally uncompromising and uncomfortable gaze. She finds comfort in numbers over words, for these are absolute and reassuring. Numbers won’t betray or leave her.’
Broadway World

‘The inspiring biopic of fossil researcher Mary Anning is brought to life in a moving play that combines narrative with physical elements.’ Everything Theatre

‘As Anning, Antonia Weir is a focussed package of simmering emotions… the impact of seeing this show at the right time could be enormous for a young person considering their path in the world.’ Broadway Baby

Cuvier & Mary Anning in She Sells Sea Shells, pictured: Charlie Merriman & Antonia Weir

What a Fringe and A fully sold-out run, nae bad.

But since Mary prefers numbers here is the epic marathon and madness that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in numbered form:

25 performances
3 performers
40 characters
1300 audience members
35 stars
230 km of walking around this city
100 packets of oatcakes eaten
29 shows

Thank you, Burgh.

Production company:
Writer: Helen Eastman
Director: Madeline Skipsey
Producer: Vikesh Godhwani
Movement Director: Samuel Rayner
Scandal & Gallows: Guy Clark & Madeline Skipsey
Assistant to the director: Violet Mackintosh
Sound design: Ally Poole
Stage Manager: William Harrison
Performers: Mary Anning- Antonia Weir
A- Emma MacLennan
B- Charlie Merriman

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