Following on their success of The Soul of Wittgenstein, Another Soup Theatre Company have residence through June at Clapham Common’s old library turned repository for live words and music. The Omnibus presents a lively and increasingly diverse and creative programme, with the newly conceived production of The Yellow Wallpaper joining the lineup.
Alice (Gemma Yates-Round) is a new mother, both strong and emotionally fragile, potentially having hurt her child and sent away for some well-deserved R&R. She is an imaginative and creative individual, but her identity is at odds with the role she is expected to play. Much of what she learns about herself is filtered through her husband or doctor and any support or treatment seems controlling and restricting. She takes her cues from a range of dominant men – if ’John says I’m better’, she believes him.
Alice increasingly withdraws into a world controlled by her imagination, spiralling down to a dark place while attempting to reach out to those that want to constantly control and manage her. However, Yates-Round often felt as if she were going through emotions rather than mining them in order to allow the audience some insight as to what was so disturbing and unsettling.
Other characters, were all played rather stiffly by Charles Warner, blending into one as husband, assistant and doctor all offer so-called care and attention. However, it seems as if it is surveillance and control that fuse into a fable-like scenario where Alice sees glimpses of recovery and freedom and which suddenly elude her grasp. Covered in yellow wallpaper the very walls seem to speak to her as she scrapes at patterns on walls to reclaim her identity. Alice wants to know who has taken it, who has covered up her feelings, her rage and her imagination? The wide range of emotional changes were not always convincing and the piece lacked pace and felt sluggish at times but perhaps what was more perplexing was the lack of any real intimacy between characters, where stroking and caressing appeared to be pawing and prodding. It was a confusing emotional journey that did not always seem convincing.
The yellow box set (designed by Mayou Trikerioti) was small and had minimal furniture, giving an appropriate sense of containment. The yellow walls almost breathed as the fabric was pressed and pushed from behind to create distorted images of long lost people. The very colour tantalizes us as it presented a cheery outlook while at the same time suggesting cowardice and deceit. However, ultimately it’s a play that promises more than it delivers as it raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps a Q and A session may bring about lively discussion about women’s identity, depression and the support the men around them offer but this play falls somewhat short of fully exploring the dilemma of Alice.