Reviews - Fringe 2014

Fringe Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

By Jen Dawson
Published July 25, 2014

I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story The Yellow Wallpaper too many years ago, back in my first year English class at Mac. It was right around the time I was listening to The Beautiful South - I was a particular fan of their macabre song "The Woman in the Wall".

If you know the short story, written in 1892, you'll know women in walls is an important part of the tale. So is psychological violence, misogyny thinly disguised as medicine, and bad décor.

Gilman's story is a first person recounting of a woman's descent into madness at the hands of her doctor-husband and some really ugly yellow wallpaper.

The story would easily lend itself to the one-woman show format - a Fringe classic. Instead, writer, director, producer and designer Kristi Boulton has chosen to mount a more ambitious production, featuring six cast members, a crew of seven and a 75-minute script that intelligently quotes from the story only when the protagonist writes in her journal.

The script hammers home the feminist themes of the story, which are explored from different perspectives by each of the characters Boulton has created. Costumes, the set and makeup are all effective.

But the play really comes alive through creative lighting and distorted sound, which convey the psychological drama and the understated horror of the world Gilman envisioned.

Adaptations of The Yellow Wallpaper, it turns out, are relatively common fare at Fringes around the world. I stumbled across online reviews for versions staged in Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Seattle. Now there's a review for Hamilton's production.

Congratulations to this talented Bring Your Own Venue troupe, who packed 'em into the sticky hot Players Guild theatre until it was standing room only. If you're looking for some hard-hitting feminism with a side of horror this weekend, it's a definite recommend.

Jen Dawson is a local community activist and freelance writer. She is a volunteer with the Hamilton 350 Committee.

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