I was interested to see how a short story could be made into a full play, but Eliza Jones managed to turn The Yellow Wallpaper into a captivating story, easy to follow and engage with. It tells the story of a woman forced to take rest and enter isolation when dealing with post natal depression, her journey with the yellow wallpaper of her room and how it starts to effect her.
The space was set in Caedmon Hall but used a black box set up; the darkness achieved facilitating the atmosphere of isolation needed in this story well. The lengthened stage gave an intimate feel to the performance as it allowed the characters to come out close to audience members, although this was slightly lost for those sitting near the edges.
The staging and costumes were simple but effective. The all black attire with additions of a jacket, a scarf or a pair of glasses gave clear indication of character change, which was commented by good characterisation by members of the cast. The set was simple, but since it was a small venue the space felt a little crowded, perhaps due to the table, which wasn’t used a great deal in the play. The remainder of the set worked well, reflecting the bare room the woman lived in. The characters, three women of the wallpaper, both seemed to watch and watch over the main woman, and this was helped by the set, as the characters would recede into the background to observe her. It is commendable to the cast to keep focus and concentration while being on stage continuously.
It was clear that the adaptation of the book to the stage had been well thought through and had clear vision behind it. I enjoyed the writing style of snapshots of the womans life in terms of interactions with the few people she got to see, and her isolation being alone with her own thoughts. Sections of fast dialogue between the different characters were handled well by Amber Conway, Esalan Gates and Esther Gillmor, and the aspects of physical theatre were well timed and for the most part in sync. Mention must be made of Betsy Bell’s performance, which was engaging and drew us immediately into her character.
The music interwoven with the scenes and acting as transitions worked well, especially in the first instance when dialogue was spoken over it. This really made the story being told come alive, but it would have been good to have seen this idea used again.
Similarly, there were some lovely moments in the lighting that felt underused. A standout scene was the use of silhouettes to tell the story of woman’s life as she had hoped it would be. The graceful movements of Amber Conway were delightful and yet still a little saddening. More could have been made of these moments as they worked so well in communicating the importance of storytelling in the narrative.
Overall this was a well put together piece that, like a short story, draws you in for a little while and gave you a small snapshot of someone else’s existence. The abrupt end was well worked up to and left the audience wondering what would happen next!
The Yellow Wallpaper will be playing at Caedmon Hall, the College of St Hild and St Bede, on Wednesday 26th June at 4pm.
Photography: Eliza Jones