Tag Archives: Fukiko Takase

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper

★★★

The Coronet Theatre

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER at The Coronet Theatre

★★★

The Yellow Wallpaper

“Thierrée’s skillset appears to be underused here, and her customary charisma is diluted”

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the ‘rest cure’ was a popular and radical treatment for many mental disorders, particularly hysteria or depression. Later proven to have no benefit at all, it was almost exclusively imposed on women by male physicians. One such practitioner was Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell who treated the American writer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, for post-natal depression, confining her to bed and banning any type of stimulus including reading, writing, painting or any social contact with the outside world. Yes – you guessed right – this just made matters worse. Fortunately, Gilman was one of the more forward-thinking feminists of the time and, after three months, defied the doctor’s orders, aware of how close she was to a complete mental breakdown. Her experience gave rise to the autobiographical novella “The Yellow Wallpaper”.

With echoes of Edgar Allan Poe, the book was categorised as a work of ‘horror fiction’ while also being hailed as a condemnation of male control in society at the time. The themes might sound dated, but in Stephanie Mohr’s staging at the Coronet Theatre, it strikes fresh chords in an age where ‘gaslighting’ is very much a buzz word. The atmosphere that filters through Gilman’s Gothic book is faithfully recreated. Instead of using the main doors to the auditorium, we are led through a dimly lit room, part nursery, part Hammer film set, the narrator’s disjointed voice leaking out of hidden speakers in the walls.

We next meet the narrator on the stage, in the form of Aurélia Thierrée. A young mother, she is confined in an attic nursery in a remote country mansion by her physician husband. At first resigned to her condition – “what can one do?” she repeatedly asks – she becomes increasingly defiant as her mental stability declines. She becomes obsessed with the wallpaper, eventually seeing a woman trapped within the patterns that she must attempt to set free. Mike Winship’s immersive and all-surrounding sound design is chilling and certainly sets the tone of the piece. While Thierrée prowls the stage, the woman she sees in the wallpaper is represented by dancer and choreographer Fukiko Takase. An extremely clever concept is in play here that confines Takase to the walls of the stage, intermittently breaking free. The effect is unsettling and powerful, reinforcing the allegorical nature of Gilman’s writing.

Ultimately it is Gilman’s text that drives the piece – which is a shame. I last saw Aurélia Thierrée at the Coronet just before lockdown in the stunningly mesmerising and dreamlike “Bells and Spells” in which she starred. Expectations are naturally high, but Thierrée’s skillset appears to be underused here, and her customary charisma is diluted, perhaps by these very expectations. A grandmaster of dance, cabaret, circus and magic, she is confined by the sole medium of the spoken word she is given. She does manage to depict, quite exceptionally, the sense of claustrophobia and disintegration, but the piece lacks the ‘Aurélian’ stamp we would hope for from this collaboration.

The production remains strong throughout, and undeniably atmospheric. But rather than hypnotic it occasionally veers towards the soporific. The concept is ingenious, the staging remarkable and the setting extraordinary. But there’s something ultimately unconvincing in the delivery that papers over the true essence of what this show could be.


THE YELLOW WALLPAPER at The Coronet Theatre

Reviewed on 26th September 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Hugo Glendinning

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

Rhythm Of Human | ★★★★★ | September 2023
Lovefool | ★★★★ | May 2023
Dance Of Death | ★★★★★ | March 2023
When We Dead Awaken | ★★★★ | March 2022
Le Petit Chaperon Rouge | ★★★★ | November 2021

The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper

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