Female Gothic

Show Reviews


Scotsman "Hot Show"

Fringe Review Top 100 shows (No 28)

Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe

Three Weeks

The forgotten ghost stories of female gothic writers such as Gaskell, Wharton and Eliot are celebrated in this intelligent production, where they are adapted and performed by Rebecca Vaughan. Director Guy Masterson does a fantastic job of creating the spooky yet subtle atmosphere in which this content thrives while clever lighting, combined with Vaughan's nuanced delivery, means the space alternates between cosy and chilling, allowing the terror of the original material to shine. A macabre masterpiece, every aspect of this production comes together perfectly, and a spectacularly enthralling performance from Vaughan lifts it to awesome heights. Ghostly, grisly and gorgeous, this show is as fantastic as it is phantasmic. Don't miss it.


This one-woman show in which three distinct Victorian ghost stories are related to the audience, is almost entirely dependent on the performance of Rebecca Vaughan, and she is amazing. She is by turns the amused, detached observer and the terrified participant in a series of stories which play with the conventions of Victorian storytelling – the disappointed lover, the scientist whose creation destroys him, the family torn apart because they failed to act in time. More deeply ingrained Victorian ideas are also in evidence here: artists are fickle, foreign medicines are magic and men are obsessed with keeping women ignorant.

Each story is different and each evokes a very old-fashioned type of creeping horror in the audience, dependent on psychological cues rather than shocks and gore, and each plays into a real fear, be it fear of rejection, medicine going wrong or ignorance creeping out of the cupboard in the corner to kill.

Light and sound are used to great effect throughout the performance, evoking a number of different atmospheres, from a crypt to a laboratory, without any set changes whatsoever. Vaughan is also excellent at summoning additional pieces of set entirely through mimed actions, and in conveying one thing through tone and quite another through body language. Watching this piece is a master class in storytelling. Chilling, haunting, dazzling, ‘Female Gothic' is a real delight. Brilliant, brilliant work.


In essence, this is a one-woman recounting of three creepy ghost stories. But Rebecca Vaughan doesn't simply tell you those stories, she shows you them. She inhabits each character and place and injects life in to your imagination so that the same simple space – persian rug, wingback chair, candelabra'd table – becomes variously, a drawing room, a laboratory, a bridge over a river, and the players move across them at her direction.

The piece is very well structured, and the links between the stories are seamless. There are just enough auditory props to evoke a sense of place, and the rest is done by Vaughan's exquisite and expressive vocal prowess alongside her physical embodiment of the characters.

Her dress must be mentioned. It's brilliant – beautiful, well fitted and appropriate, exactly like the show.

The Carrick

Take care, Ladies and Gentlemen, there's awful strange things in this world. Rebecca Vaughan brings three interwoven tales of mystery and imagination to a hushed, expectant audience. Dressed in Victorian mourning garb, she lights three candles, which she snuffs out one-by-one as she concludes each tale.

Vaughan draws her audience in with her tales of tragic, thwarted love and things of nameless dread. She recounts a story of a young artist and his lover Gertrude; then tells of vivisectionist professor Boyd Thompson, who wants to impress the lovely Lucilla and then her own dreadful experiences.

This is how horror ought to be done; not with buckets of gore, but by building up an atmosphere of fear, anticipation and dread. This production hearkens back to the writings of Mary Shelley and Edith Wharton, but it also brings to mind the Innsmouth tales of H P Lovecraft. This production will chill your blood to the marrow. You'll be glad to get back into the sunshine.

The Scotsman (Picked as "Hot Show")

If you are looking for a handsome, well-turned out, value-for-money Fringe show, that will offer you a superbly professional 75 minutes of pre-lunch entertainment without rearranging your life in any way, then Dyad Productions's Female Gothic is exactly the show for you. Written and beautifully performed by Rebecca Vaughan, in a most elegant Victorian dress, it tells three Gothic tales of supernatural horror, each linked by a faint sense of the ongoing 19th century battle of the sexes.

So in the first, an arrogant student is pursued across Europe by the unquiet spirit of the loving young fiancee he jilted. In the second, an obsessive scientist is condemned to eternal horror by the passion for experimentation that led him to reject the woman who loved him. And in the third, the narrator tells a tale from her own life, of a friend seized by death soon after giving birth to her first child, and of the friend's distraught husband, whom the narrator perhaps once loved.

All three tales are delivered with impressive eloquence and quiet passion, in a ladylike but intense performance that holds the audience in the palm of its hand.

And if 11.45 in the morning is a strange time to be enjoying this near-perfect piece of after-dinner theatre, it still offers a great deal of pleasure, to those who like their theatre polite and handsome, but not without an edge of sharp intelligence.

British Theatre Guide

Taking its basis from the oft forgotten stories penned by female writers in the Victorian Gothic tradition, Rebecca Vaughan's solo performance seeks to set the audiences in a state of creeping terror with tales of the macabre.

Vaughan's adaptation of these tales is shaped into a trio of stories which play out sequentially in the form of parlour entertainment. The meandering and era- evoking nature of the pacing means that a genuine sense of time and place is always clear, while under Guy Masterson's fine direction Vaughan never strays into the melodramatic or overacting.

The tales themselves are craftily told, leading from the slightly whimsical, to the cautionary before finally hitting home with a genuinely unsettling story of a haunted house.

The overall effect is wonderfully eerie to experience and manages to capture that most intangible of theatre goals, the real fear of the audience.

Broadway Baby

Ghoulishly good

Female Gothic is a treat of a show for anyone as macabre-minded as myself; but then again I compulsively watch plane crash documentaries. Scratch that, it was a cracking show for anyone who appreciates suspenseful storytelling with a delicious tingle of horror; Rebecca Vaughan managed to make her show impressively scary for a brunch time slot.

I had half expected re-hashed versions of classic Gothic tales, such as Bluebeard, or equally an amalgamation of wailing maidens plus locked doors plus things that go bump in the night - elements that crop up in your standard, humdrum, run-of-the- mausoleum Gothic story. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that all three stories were unfamiliar to me.

The first was a tale of a dead girl promised in marriage and subsequently abandoned, coming back to haunt her faithless lover. It reminded me of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, with its eerie portrayal of the dead coming tangibly back to Earth in order to wreak their vengeance. The second owed a lot to The Curious Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with its scientific elements, exploring the fundamental concerns that arise when man plays God. The final story was introduced as a personal memory of the narrator and was perhaps the most unsettling due to its denial of any kind of explanation or closure. In essence it was a jazzed-up haunted house yarn, but Vaughan brought some unexpected elements and twists, alongside a truly visceral sense of horror, to the narrative.

For a morning show with all the shivers of a midnight witching hour, Rebecca Vaughan is well worth a watch. Don't get nightmares...

Fringe Guru

It's hard to trade a beautiful, sunny day for the gloom of the theatre. But when the show you're seeing is as enjoyable as Rebecca Vaughan's thought provoking, delightfully creepy one-woman production, Female Gothic, the sacrifice is well worth it.

You might think that you're just going to settle in for a trio of Gothic ghost stories from three Victorian authoresses, but Vaughan, who both wrote and stars in the piece, knows that there's much more to these tales than a few chills. She makes sure that the audience knows it as well. Victorian-era prejudices – artists are untrustworthy, South Sea islanders are magical, women should be religious – are all on show, along with some interesting, almost early-feminist observations on the weakness of men. The latter are portrayed as fickle, arrogant, or unnecessarily obsessed with keeping women ignorant; always, of course, to their detriment. As she segues between stories, Vaughan offers some wry observations on imagination, love, and scientific curiosity, all of which are fine, as long as they aren't taken too far.

As writer and star, the show rests squarely on Vaughan's shoulders. She carries is beautifully, chatting with the audience as if they'd just stumbled into her sitting room for the evening. Her acting was never overdone (always a danger when an actor's working in an intimate space and dealing with occasionally overblown language and dramatic situations). The grandiose language and descriptions that characterize Gothic writing translate surprisingly well to the stage; I found myself hearing the stories recited more than I ever did reading them.

Female Gothic celebrates women; not just the words three ladies put on the page, but women's lives during a particular period in time. Many women writers during the Victorian era took to the Gothic form as a subversive way to expressive very real-world fears – abandonment, forced marriage or death in childbirth – and their frustrations with a patriarchal society that forced them to act frail or ignorant. On the face of things, these are just fantastical ghost stories, but if you look a little deeper there's much more going on. Vaughan gets that fact, and clearly hopes you will too, thought perhaps in your own time. After all, as she herself observes, there's "no shortcut to wisdom".

Informed Edinburgh

From the comfort of a creaky Victorian armchair, in an unsettling space barely lit by few flickering candles, a lone woman proceeds to tell three haunting tales of the terrifying and sublime – quite a fitting scene to unfold in Edinburgh, the city of literature, on this typically gloomy day.

Adapted and performed by Rebecca Vaughan, Female Gothic is a celebration of all things uncanny, sourced from the pages of some of Gothic fiction's forgotten female writers. Each of the chosen stories explores overarching themes familiar to the gothic genre such as hubris, monstrosity and the unknown, while at the same time transcending the genre roots to reveal a deeper anxiety of women writers, during a time when changes in social norms had become a platform for fear.

Vaughan's performance is remarkable. She transports the audience through time, bringing places and characters to life with few sound effects and a masterful use of the vivid and voluptuous Victorian language. As a regular period performer, Vaughan adopts the role of a haunted lost soul with ease, owning the mannerism and insight that one would expect from a noble woman during the era. She makes clever use of the minimal set pieces, consisting of a goblet, and armchair and three solitary standing candles, adding more to the experience than a simple re-telling of gothic fiction. Ultimately The Female Gothic succeeds due to its creation of a distinctly unsettling atmosphere that has the audience lingering on Vaughan's every word. There are several moments of spine-tingling terror which arise from a consistent accumulation of general creepiness. An incredibly refined one-woman show, Female Gothic will have you captivated from start to finish.


In this 75-minute production, Rebecca Vaughan delivers an ethereal and macabre narration of three haunting tales of love and death. In each story, human defect is responsible for a grotesque series of events that result in love lost and eventual death. However death is not the end, and this gothic fiction flawlessly recounted by Vaughan is both unsettling and arousing.

Vaughan as sole actor does extremely well to speak for 75 whole minutes, impeccably delivering her stories of woe with a most expressive narrative, accompanied with music, wild gesticulation and mime. She maintains constant eye contact with the audience, which serves to keep us connected with Vaughan as she performs her long monologue, snuffing out the candle to indicate the end of one story and start of another.

Vaughan ends her performance with a message of caution, ‘take care ladies and gentlemen, there's awfully strange things in this world'. A chilling end to a beautifully constructed triumph.

Quotidien Times

This one woman performance piece by Dyad Productions directed by Guy Masterton and starring Rebecca Vaughan- who wrote the piece- is as impressive and moody a tale as you are likely to encounter in a midday lunchtime slot. Vaughan carries the three separate tales more than adequately and uses nuance and skill as a major part of her storytelling style whilst capturing the right amount of melancholia without ever dipping into the overly theatrical many would associate with Gothic writing.

Taking the form of three short stories Vaughan begins by taking to the sparse but effective set with a leather wingback chair, subtle yet dramatic lighting which creates the right level of shadow and then lighting three candles –one is snuffed out every time she concludes an episode and this indicates another tale is about to unfold- begins the first of her Victorian themed pieces.

The stories themselves twist and turn with dramatic flourish as is needed. With very little assistance apart from a few sound effects –dogs howling in the distance, the swell of music as her character approaches the Paris Opera House- Vaughan carries the tales with aplomb creating the necessary ambience with her storytelling abilities alone. The subtle shifts in the lighting are the only other assistance she requires and these are so subtle as to be hardly noticeable.

The script itself is involved without being complicated. Likewise Vaughan's performance could hardly be more fully realised or capable. Never faltering or showing any signs of hesitation she manages to make it through the one hour and fifteen minutes making it seem quite effortless indeed.


Prepare to be bewitched by this enchanting one woman performance. Three incredibly spooky stories. Tingling.

The Stage

With Austen's Women and I, Elizabeth under her bustle, Rebecca Vaughan has shown she's a dab hand at putting together a classy one-woman show. Female Gothic is no different. Vaughan is reclaiming the female voices of the Victorian spiritualist genre, who have been buried by their male counterpoints in the annals of history.

Female Gothic is elegantly put together, and performed with conviction by this impressive actor. Capturing the sombre omniscience of all good narrators, she tells us of betrayals that lead to supernatural deaths, of scientists who, in trying to be gods, are punished by them, and finally a spooky story from her own history.

It's pretty gloomy, as one would expect, but there's enough richness in Vaughan's adaptations to keep you listening. It's undeniably atmospheric, and the images that Vaughan evokes in the theatre linger for a while after you've left her dark parlour, haunting you still.

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