July 29, 2021

The Yellow Wallpaper

In a "three course feast" the Yellow Cat Collective brings three performances a night over three nights to the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden of The Yellow Wallpaper. There are a lot of threes going on here; three parts to the night with three performers.

The Yellow Wallpaper is a severely creepy short story written in the late 1800s about a woman going mad trapped in a room with yellow wallpaper, it's been hailed as a feminist text. This isn't the first time the Yellow Cat Collective have tackled this story. They produced a piece in this years Fringe festival focusing on the experiences of the woman. But this time they've chosen to focus instead on the wallpaper itself, how it feels to be observed.

The evening starts with time to explore the house, you may not have been since the upgrades in 2019 so have a good look around, music pulses from behind a closed door. Then the audience collects in the "timeline room" where there are a handful of seats around the detailed walls for a reading of an extract from The Yellow Wallpaper. The reader is good but I'm distracted by her orange shoes and the quotes from Katherine Mansfield plastered on the wall behind her. Then the main event, we are led across the hall to what was once the grandmothers room, now an exhibition space, stripped of all furniture save another line of chairs along the wall. This is where the music has been coming from.

Dance is one of those difficult mediums where if you aren't told the story beforehand almost anything could be going on in front of you. This holds true here, but once you know you see the dancers emerging from the walls, writhing against them as you wonder if they're allowed to touch the highly decorated paper. You realise that dancers must necessarily be actors too, their faces impassive. I'm distracted again by odd things; how the calf muscles bulk as once dancer moves, the rib cage of the other as she arches, tattoos revealed on the first as her shirt lifts in movement, chipped nail polish on a hand as it sweeps through the air. There is beauty here and trust too - they rely on each other to hold the space and at one point to hold each other up as they both lean in. Modern dance becomes ballroom as the dancers circle each other then it disintegrates as they twist on the floor. 

In this intimate space there is no getting away from the performers, close enough you could reach out to touch them. The music is light, unintrusive, so much so that you wonder how the dancers know their place. But they do, it is perfectly timed. It ends and the dancers faces and movements change, they seem a little embarrassed by the praise and the thanks of the audience. The evening comes to a close, we are ushered out as the next group is arriving soon.

At just $10 a ticket it's very affordable but get in quick as spaces are limited.

Tickets: $10

Performances: 29-31 July, 6pm, 6:50pm 7:40pm

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