Reviews - Fringe 2014

Fringe Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

By Mackenzie Kristjon Jenkyns
Published July 28, 2014

Kristi Boulton with reviewer Mackenzie Kristjon
Kristi Boulton with reviewer Mackenzie Kristjon

Based on the early feminist classic Charlotte Perkins Gilman from 1892, The Yellow Wallpaper is the closest thing to a horror film I saw at the Hamilton Fringe. The creepy piano music at the beginning sent chills up my spine as we meet our main character Charlotte (Hanah Itner) writing in her diary.

We quickly learn that she is in a country home with her husband, a nanny, and a newborn baby that she doesn't seem to want to hold. Occasionally, the doctor (Nick Kozij) comes by with more pills and reinforces that she needs to be confined to this room with the yellow wallpaper and especially she should not be writing.

Hanah Itner does a fantastic job of communicating the insecurity and confusion that one would associate with mental illness. Practically the entire time, I was almost angry for her as the "treatment" was clearly out of line and to our modern eyes makes little sense.

I found myself thinking about Foucault's Madness & Civilization and the conceptual distinction between rationality and madness. Who is more mad here? The doctor or the patient?

One of the most fascinating aspects of this play (among many fascinating aspects) was the movement of the women in the wall. As Charlotte descends further and further into madness, the yellow wallpaper begins to undulate more and more (very creepy!) and eventually becomes people walking and following our heroine.

Sarah Granger is dressed in a yellow leotard and with her face painted yellow and black, she comes across like an almost jungle cat-like monster.

Eventually the paranoia and disturbed thinking comes to a head and Charlotte is joined by even more yellow women (including our playwright Kristi Boulton) who are calling to her and wanting her to join them in their alternate reality.

In many ways, I had a hard time blaming Charlotte for wanting to join these witchy yellow women; I wanted to see what their world was all about too! Definitely my vote for creepiest play of the Fringe!

Mackenzie Kristjon is an Icelandic-Canadian singer-songwriter and all around creative force. He has published numerous books including the award-winning Culinary Saga of New Iceland. He also has roots in community radio at CFRU 93.3 FM in Guelph. To hear/see/download his music, you can visit thismaddesire.bandcamp.com.

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