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Shetland Arts presents The Mysterious Death of Netta Fornario by Mull Theatre and Wildbird in Walls and Lerwick in June.  The Gothic tale of magic, madness, murder and mystery is a stylish production inspired by true events on the Isle of Iona.

On the 17th of November 1929, Netta Fornario, aged 32, a practicing Golden Dawn magician, was found dead on Iona.  Naked apart from a silver necklace, she was lying on a cross cut from turf with a knife nearby, and with no visible injuries except a strange pattern of cuts on her heels.  Clutched in her perfectly manicured hand was a sheaf of incomprehensible letters from an unidentified stranger.  

Her death remains a mystery to this day.  Was she murdered by people offended by her unconventional views?  Was her death supernatural or merely the inevitable conclusion of untreated paranoid schizophrenia?  The Mysterious Death of Netta Fornario is a chilling account mixing fiction with the real events of a still controversial death, suitable for age 14+.

The newly commissioned script, using exciting imaging techniques to create a stunning visual landscape, marks the first collaboration between two Highland-based theatre-makers, the long-established Mull Theatre and one of Scotland’s most exciting new creative companies, Wildbird. These companies are brought together and the production funded by North by North-East, the Northern Scottish Touring Fund, and the tour within Argyll and Shetland is funded by Scotland’s Islands 2011.

Writer/director Chris Lee says “I first came across Netta Fornario and the strange story of her tragic death on Iona whilst researching traditional tales for a possible Christmas show for primary school audiences. She was tucked away amongst the Sithan and the Red Caps and all the other mythical beings and folk tales of Scotland; a completely original, 20th-century incarnation of magic and mystery.

“I knew instantly that I wanted to tell her story, or more accurately, a story with a version of Netta at the heart of it; and that the roots of this telling lay in the late 19th and early 20th century's fascination with all things Gothic. Stories such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, that fascinate, attract and repulse at the same time. All of these kinds of tale touch something universal in us, something subconscious that is tied up with our own fear of death, moral degradation, and loss of control; something that seems at the same time to be inextricably linked to our most dangerous desires.

“In The Mysterious Death of Netta Fornario, I have taken the scant facts around Netta's strange demise, that are available to even the most diligent researcher; including some of the wilder theories that surround the actual recorded events; and used them to create a Gothic story of my own. It shamelessly borrows from those classic stories that have gone before, to make a new play that is immersed in madness, murder, magic and decay, that has at its heart, a truly memorable character.”

Performances are in the Walls Hall on Monday 13 June, and at the Garrison Theatre on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 June.  Tickets are on sale now from Shetland Box Office, Islesburgh Community Centre, tel. 01595 745555 | www.shetlandboxoffice.org.   Suitable for age 14+.

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