Female Gothic with Rebecca Vaughan at The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre

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REVIEW: Beauty and The Beast at Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham

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Female Gothic showcases the oft-neglected works of female writers of Gothic fiction, that genre of Victorian ghost stories that we more readily associate with male authors.

This accomplished one-woman performance, directed by Guy Masterson, seeks to redress the balance with three tales of the supernatural and macabre penned by women.

Rebecca Vaughan is a masterful performer, effortlessly drawing in the audience and commanding the stage. With crystal-clear voice and mime of extraordinary precision, Vaughan populates the space with a variety of characters and objects.

I will admit to being underwhelmed by the first two stories: a straightforward tale of a man haunted by the fiancee he abandons, a scientist who takes his experiment too far – shades of Edgar Allen Poe in the latter.

But Vaughan ratchets up the tension in the third as she shifts from detached storyteller to candid confessor, recounting an episode from her own past.

Suddenly you notice just how much you have believed in the character before you, and the vulnerability and utterly convincing fear she demonstrates does indeed send tingles down your spine.

Perfectly judged sound and lighting add atmosphere to an impressive display of theatre in its purest, most intimate form.