THE CHAT with Rona Munro has been lined up to talk about her new stage show, Frankenstein, the early 19th century composite made up of bits and pieces of human detritus and dressed perfectly in Gothic darkness. But you wonder if it will help to illuminate bits of her own character?

Munro has long intrigued; a playwright who achieved international success with the incredible James Plays trilogy, yet has been writing plays since the age of eight?

On top of that, her Captain Corelli adaptation managed to laugh in the face of Hollywood’s laughable film version, she’s written two episodes of Doctor Who which span a generation gap. And the Aberdeen-born writer has even managed to win over the immeasurably hard-to-please Stanley Baxter with a succession of radio plays.

But first, let’s talk about Frankie. Why would you want to exhume a body of work that’s been done to death?

“When I was approached to write Frankenstein a few years ago my first thought was I didn’t want to do it,” she says over tea and chocolate treats at a Perth Theatre rehearsal space. “But when I began to read about Mary Shelley the one thing that leapt out at me was it was written by an 18-year-old woman.

“Then I realised that most accounts claimed Mary had dreamt it all up in a fevered, slightly hysterical state and most likely her partner, (the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) then worked on it and gave it a structure.”

This account is as real as the monster himself. Mary Shelley’s creation came to life as a result of a writing competition between poets Byron, Shelley and Polidori – and Mary took part as a dare. The others abandoned the comp, but doggedly she made it work.

“The bio-pic films and fictional versions of Mary Shelley I looked at focused on this vulnerable young woman who was in an open relationship with Shelley (the aristocrat was married) was wracked with jealousy and she’d already lost children.”

Munro wanted to write the story of a woman who was clever, determined and pragmatic. “Mary wrote as a professional job and she also organised Shelley’s work to help bring in the dosh. This made me realise it wasn’t the story of a traumatised adolescent, but of a woman with tremendous skill who wanted to write a ghost story frightening enough to sell.”

Munro then determined to write a play about a strong woman ahead of her time. “I wanted to stick Mary in the story, but not in a bio-pic way. She’s a narrator and we see her construct her story. But what we also learn is that the seed of the idea she came up with arrived on a night she’d probably taken lots of substances with the rest of the writers – and the experience utterly terrified her. So she wrote this story of being terrified.”

The playwright adds; “In this play, we follow her journey to get from the beginning to the end. “

Munro also wanted to reveal the monster story wasn’t an indictment against science, or a Prometheus tale but a rage against inequality. Shelley was arguing that the privileged in society have a responsibility to the less privileged.

“Mary Shelley’s text has speeches, which I’ve kept in the play, that actually talk about the oppression of native people, by big countries against little ones. There’s the story of the blind family the monster shelters with; they were actually refugees who have been driven out of their own country after the son has a relationship with a Muslim woman.” She smiles; “People will think I’ve made that bit up but it’s all in there.”

It seems there’s much of the Mary Shelley in Munro. Brought up in a middle class home (Munro’s parents were a geology lecturer and a radio therapist) the young self-contained Rona (“My brother was older – he wouldn’t play with me”) played pretend games but they didn’t involve dollies and prams. “They involved swords and sorcery and Robin Hood,” she says, grinning. “A few years ago in battle scene rehearsals for the James Plays I turned to an actress and said ‘This is just like a scene from my childhood’.”

The imaginative eight-year-old mind had already produced its first play. By 13, it had created a novel. “I was lucky in that I had an ‘uncle’, in fact my mother’s second cousin, called Angus McVicar who was an incredibly prolific writer and I read his science fiction novels as a kid. We spent summer holidays with him and when aged eight I said ‘I want to be a writer’ he said ‘Well, you can!’ After I wrote my first novel he said to my parents ‘We’ve got a writer here!’”

Studying medieval history was really a distraction from writing, comedy sketches and plays. But she also admits her performance gene revealed itself, setting up a touring company, The Misfits, with Fiona Knowles. “I wasn’t great,” she recalls with a fake grimace. “I thought I was the funny one. But I was Ernie Wise, although not as good.”

After uni Munro worked as an office cleaner for a year to fund the writing dream. “I’ve always had conviction.” (She would one day write a dark comedy play featuring two cleaners, Dust Under The Carpet.)

A year on, Munro landed writing commissions from the Traverse Theatre and STV. But she never felt a career plan was clicking into place. “All I felt was lucky,” she admits. “Writing seemed impossible. And after a job was finished I despaired of ever working again. That’s still the way I feel. “

How does she deal with rejection? “Well, I never sent in stuff unsolicited. My work came from recommendation, or I would get actor friends together and make something happen.”

Munro, almost 60, persisted, writing scripts that reflect the world around her. “I’m scared I’ll sound like a w***** when I speak about this,” she grins, “but I suppose I do feel a responsibility to represent the community I was part of in the Eighties, where we were politically conscious, responding to Thatcher. And I think my responsibility is to represent things that are not seen. A lot of my writing means creating strong female characters, good parts for actresses.”

When she worked for Doctor Who she created the first BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) actor who wasn’t some sort of alien. And didn’t she sneak in a lesbian subtext? “Yes, but I didn’t tell anyone,” she says with a naughty laugh. “I thought it risky. And I did think the higher levels of the BBC wouldn’t have been happy about it.”

She grins; “But since then Doctor Who fans have come up to me and said ‘Was the Cheetah Woman lesbian?’ I love that.”

Munro lives in Selkirk (her partner, Dave, passed away in 2016.) She has a grown up son, an artist, working in film and telly and she seems busier than Boris these days. (A man she has no time for but she argues the liberal Left are wrong when they describe him as a buffoon.)

What our chat suggests is she’s intense, committed to the tasks in hand. But you suspect the writer could be great fun if she could take her head out of the laptop for more than a moment, seemingly determined to make sure Frankenstein comes to life with a new reality, and that the upcoming James play emerges tighter than a Jacobean drum.

Munro admits to enjoying the adrenaline of the deadline, but concedes you reach a point in life when surge produces a sore head. So what does she do to escape the pressures? Drink coffee? Take cocaine or some the hallucinogenics Mary Shelley imbued the night she came up with the Frankenstein idea?

“No, I walk my dog.” That’s it, Rona? Don’t you take holidays to unwind? “No, I don’t like to go on my own, and if I go with a friend we end up killing each other. Two control freaks.”

Another character clue. She’s an ace controller. But that suggests Frankie could be a monster success.

* Frankenstein opens at Perth Theatre on September 5 with dates throughout Scotland and England, including opening November 25 at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow