Monday, August 22, 2011

Theatre: The Yellow Wallpaper/ Sud Stories

The Yellow Wallpaper
Adapted by Silvia Lehmann and Teresa Izzard
From the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Directed by Teresa Izzard
Designed by Laura Heffernan
Featuring Jo Morris, Sarah Nelson and Sean Walsh
Blue Room Theatre
Until September 3
Jo Morris
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote the semi-autobiographical The Yellow Wallpaper in 1890 in California, where she lived with her daughter Katherine after separating from her husband.
While it may not have had the spectacular effect of her aunt Harriet’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which Abraham Lincoln credited with bringing on the American Civil War, it was an influential early example of feminist literature.
Writers Silvia Lehmann and Teresa Izzard have given Gilman’s short story a challenging dramatic interpretation with a strong flavour of Ibsen that remains true to the 19th century literary and theatrical sensitivity from which it springs.
Charlotte – the character, not the author – is suffering an intense attack of what is now recognised as postpartum psychosis following the birth of her daughter.
Her husband John, a doctor with the bland cruelty peculiar to his type, has virtually imprisoned Charlotte for a rest cure for her “nervous condition”, forbidding any intellectual stimulation or company. Her enforced confinement in a room dominated by hideous yellow wallpaper only exacerbates her psychotic state, and she spins from euphoria to deep depression so suddenly that she becomes two people in one body.
Lehmann and Izzard achieve these difficult transitions with a device they and their carefully chosen cast execute so skillfully (Izzard also directs) that I’m loath to give it away. It’s a technically and physically exacting artifice that achieves some powerful and at times hallucinogenic effects.
Jo Morris, Sarah Nelson and Sean Walsh are disciplined and precise in demanding roles, and Laura Heffernan has produced a grimly perfect design to help tell this story.
The Yellow Wallpaper is hard, uncomfortable theatre and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it offers significant rewards to its audience.

Sud Stories
Devised and performed by Janette McGinty
with Nate Doherty
Lighting design by Fiona Bell Reid
Blue Room Theatre
Until August 27

Sud Stories is a confessional exploration of bathtime and bathing by the Scottish/Australian performer, Janette McGinty.
McGinty has an engaging persona, much in the fashion of Jane Horrocks, and Sud Stories opens winningly with tales of her experiences in baths and showers and the confessions of audience members on the same soapy subject.
But it was all more charming than funny, and, as the show progresses, became more messy than charming.
The introduction of a strange sponge monster (Nate Doherty) did nothing to arrest the growing incomprehensibility of the piece, leaving the point of the whole exercise as hard to grasp as, well, wet soap.
The Auslan interpreter Paula Norman gave an entertaining and enlightening sign accompaniment to the performance, a most worthwhile and commendable innovation by the Blue Room. 

An edited version of these reviews appeared in The West Australian link here 

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