ADAPTED from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s haunting short story The Yellow Wallpaper, SquidInk Theatre’s Yellow is an equally unsettling depiction of the stifling of women’s voices.
In this modern adaptation of the original story, Charlotte is a young mother suffering from postpartum depression. Her husband decides that they should take a short holiday while she recovers. They rent a house in the countryside where Charlotte blogs from a room decorated in yellow wallpaper…
In updating the setting to modern day the play could so easily have lost the original’s atmosphere of gothic horror but happily this is not the case with Yellow. Using the venue’s cramped staging to their advantage the production presents a claustrophobic look at the mental anguish of being heard but not listened to. A bed, a laptop, and some yellow lighting against a simple wooden frame are all it takes to evoke a sense of the extent of Charlotte’s physical life.
Meanwhile, the writing skilfully depicts how despite all the progress made in women’s rights since the original story was published, there are still insidious ways in which women’s voices can be silenced. It goes further, showing how the patriarchal insistence on women’s frailty creates a prison no less effective than if it was physical rather than mental.
Charlotte Grainne Dromgoole, also appearing in Baby, What Blessings! at this Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is a self-contained ball of fear and confusion. But her interpretation of the protagonist is far from a helpless victim; the character’s attempts to push back against her oppressors rings true and you find yourself rooting for her even if you already know how the story ends.
Christopher Connolly also performs well in the dual roles of Charlotte’s loving yet stifling husband Max and the unhelpful but aptly-named Dr Weir who is treating her. The performances are supplemented by audio and movement to keep us in Charlotte’s perspective, although these features occasionally intrude on the performances of the actors.
Yellow is a timely play which asks just how far have we actually come since the days of diagnoses of hysteria and whether society is any readier to listen to women’s voices than it was a century ago.