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Goths and monsters
Women's literature is the driving force behind St Albans resident Rebecca Vaughan’s highly acclaimed theatre shows. Her first two one-woman shows – Austen’s Women and I, Elizabeth –were five-star
successes at Edinburgh and Adelaide in 2009 and 2010. Her most recent show, The Diaries of Adam and Eve – a two-hander with husband Elton Townend Jones – also received five-star reviews at the
Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011.
Rebecca’s latest production, Female Gothic is directed by Olivier award- winner Guy Masterson and previews in St Albans and Welwyn before premiering at the Edinburgh Festival. As with her earlier works, this delicious and dark one-woman show is based on women’s writing. However, unlike Jane Austen and Elizabeth I, some of these Victorian women have almost been forgotten.
“There were so many great writers not only those we know of Mary Shelley, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. Edith Nesbit is better known for her children’s stories but when it comes to dark, gothic tales she was one of the darkest and a truly brilliant storyteller.
“There was also Mary Braddon and we don’t really know about her any more but at the time she was up there with Dickens. She wrote more than 50 novels and silly amounts of gothic and ghost stories. These women weren’t just writers either, they were really well respected editors of periodicals.“
Rebecca tells me the show is divided into three main stories interwoven with snippets from other writers. Again the shows are made up using only the words of the writers themselves.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the female voice. With Austen it was about showing how modern she was and with Elizabeth I wanted audiences to know her through her own words.
“Each of these stories has a different flavour and comes from the Victorian tradition of women trying to make sense of the world around them. They were marginalised and treated as alien in many ways so they looked to strange and unexplained things to explore that feeling of being other. Their words have a melancholic knowingness as if they can look at the world and see its faults as an outsider looking in.“
Female Gothic is narrated throughout by a woman.
“Everything in the show is pieced together from the stories of Victorian women – they are evocative, interesting and modern - and they need to be heard.
“The first is about a male artist and about love going wrong and glimpsing the darkness beyond those feelings – it is very poetic and stylised. The second is more macabre in the vein of Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde and in the third story the narrator talks about scary and disturbing experiences she has had in a house.
“The Victorian idea of terror is a very different thing to ours. We’re very desensitized but if you take the electric light away you’re plunged into a world of darkness and everything becomes strange and unusual. It’s not always about what’s happening to them but the way in which they perceive it.“
Hawthorne Theatre, Welwyn Garden City on Sunday, July 22 (01707 357117) and Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans on Saturday, July 28 (07807 521436). In Edinburgh August 2-27. Details: www.dyadproductions.com
Everything in the show is pieced together from the stories of Victorian women – they are evocative, interesting and modern - and they need to be heardRebecca Vaughan