A new adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s magnificent 1892 novella The Yellow Wallpaper is currently running at London’s “international theatre,” the Coronet.
Stephanie Mohr directs two vibrant performers – the actor Aurélia Thiérrée and dancer/choreographer Fukiko Takase – in her radical new adaptation which plays across the main auditorium and studio with video, sound, and movement.
A young mother suffers with a nervous condition, what we might call today post-partum depression, which slowly heads towards paranoia and psychosis as she constantly studies the patterns in The Yellow Wallpaper.
As her insufferable physician husband, John, patronises and humours her, the woman becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of the pattern and setting free the creeping woman she sees trapped inside it.
Thiérrée is the women we see in the auditorium. Ckeverly, the theatre has opted to direct audience members through the studio where Takase is already performing long before the show starts.
We watch her during the show proper on an intermittent video link and at times she crosses over into the main space, eventually partaking of a duet with Thiérrée at the point her mental faculties have become clear to her but unreachable to others.
The Yellow Wallpaper is text-heavy across its hour but retains the potency that renders it an early feminist classic focusing on women’s freedom within an oppressive world where men held power.
Eduardo Strike’s lighting offers the colour, depth, and focus the piece requires, while Mike Winship’s sound has some clever tricks to suggest the woman’s state of mind. The stage is full of thick ropes, hanging clothes, a coveted pram.
This determined and innovative collaboration utilises both the theatre’s spaces for the first time and allows the three female creatives space to reshape and reassess Gilman’s continually fascinating work.
Image credit: Hugo Glendinning