The Yellow Wallpaper at the Coronet Theatre
Blending dance and theatre, director Stephanie Mohr’s staging of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s acclaimed The Yellow Wallpaper masterfully brings the haunting essence of the original story to the stage. A foundation in Gilman’s prose, and memorable performances by Aurélia Thiérrée as the unnamed woman and Fukiko Takase as the dancer, ensure an unforgettable experience for viewers.
As a beacon of feminist literature and an iconic horror tale, The Yellow Wallpaper deserves its appraisal. Thiérrée’s portrayal as the protagonist captures this as she narrates the entire plot, and from the start she has a nervousness about her that emphasises the story’s tone succinctly. As the play moves on, the intensity in her delivery of the monologue grows in a way that produces goosebumps.
Mohr’s stage design is excellent. The stage is littered with ropes, a crib and pieces of cloth to create a sense of chaos that mirrors the uncomfortable nature of the narrator’s mind, while also fulfilling a symbolic function of representing her feeling of being tied up and worrying about her young motherhood. Takase’s choreography and dance, too, mirror the uneasiness: with a lengthy contemporary choreography, she portrays a sense of foreboding. It fits perfectly with the overall show. In a sense, the dancer and the narrator are two sides of the same coin, in the same way the woman the narrator sees behind the yellow wallpaper and herself are the same person.
Added to this, Mike Winship’s sound design highlights the unhomely nature of the general production, although it does need to be said that this occasionally ventures close to cliché: there’s a sound of a heartbeat during the monologue towards the end, scene changes are introduced by a deep, throbbing sound, when the narrator is feeling particularly agitated her voice echoes through the stage, when she thinks of her baby, the infant’s voice rings unnaturally in the background. These are all well-trodden effects that could distract from the seriousness of the piece, although that doesn’t quite occur here.
Mohr’s The Yellow Wallpaper is a real success. By staying true to the original, emphasising the prose via some excellent performances and only adding subtleties to the mix, it’s one of the best staged versions of the story to watch. An easy recommendation for enthusiasts.
Images: Hugo Glendinning
The Yellow Wallpaper is at The Coronet Theatre from 21st September until 7th October 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.