The one woman show, Female Gothic, three Victorian stories written by women, adapted and performed by Rebecca Vaughan, is a small gem of a show- especially if you enjoy a gothic shiver up your spine in the same way that the original readers of the stories did. I am not going to spoil them by giving details but all three are fiercely expressive and rich in highly charged emotion, melodramas full of death, human frailty and moral fervour, tapping into universal human fears. They still work in exactly the way that they did when they were first written thanks to the fact that what makes a rattling good story will never change. The adaptation has been very well judged. It doesn’t flag for a moment and there is no trace of wordiness or lengthy description to move the focus away from the people at the heart of each tale. The links between them are cleverly done, especially the one which leads us into the final story.
What I liked most about Rebecca Vaughan’s performance was the combination of intensity and low key naturalism. There is more than enough high melodrama in the words, we don’t need it in the performance as well. So long as there is complete conviction in what is being described and a real connection with the audience the stories will speak for themselves. It is a very stylish, self assured performance which we can trust completely and this is vital if you are going to spend a long time watching a single figure and listening to a single voice. There is quite beautiful detail to watch which allows you to see people and things which are not there and a touching honesty behind everything which is said that allows you to believe it. Nothing is more powerful than a simple piece of storytelling in a dark space when it is done well.
The piece was directed by Guy Masterson, someone who knows just how a one man show works from years of experience, and there is exactly the right mix of stillness and movement, light, shade and darkness to keep it moving forward and hold our interest. Both he and Rebecca Vaughan should be very pleased with both the fine detail in this production and the sheer theatrical good taste which have brought these stories back to life. It would have been so easy to do this kind of thing badly, but you get everything that you are promised in the publicity and more.