Star rating: ****

The opening tranche of contributions to The Arches' New Works New Worlds festival took on the explicitly political but opaquely delivered preoccupations of the 1980s Culture Wars that became the stock in trade of New York's avant garde. This second round of miniatures at times resembled the so-called wave of more linear one-person shows that proved so cost effective on the Edinburgh Fringe in the early 1990s.

It's important to note both influences on an event so consciously focusing on the apparent shock of the new lest its predecessors be airbrushed out of history.

There have been many stage versions, for instance, of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's pioneering novel, The Yellow Wallpaper, which so deftly captured the 19th-century experience of a woman incarcerated after being declared mentally ill. Julia Taudevin and Amanda Monfrooe's one-woman play, The YelloWing, is a 21st-century response to its source material that suggest things haven't changed much over the last century or so. Taudevin plays a woman who at first glance has it all; a high-powered career and an ice-cool demeanour, all wrapped up in a little black dress to die for. Once back in what turns out to be some kind of institution, however, the brittle façade crumbles in a torrent of histrionics as she attempts to tear down the walls that confine her. As silhouettes of caged birds conjured from the woman's imagination flicker on the wall, the voice of her husband at the other end of the telephone backs her further into a corner.

As Taudevin's character lets rip physically, mentally and every which way, it's impossible to recognise the "little goose" at the start of the play, such is her increasingly extreme unleashing of what may be a misunderstood form of post-natal depression. While still a work in progress, there's plenty of dramatic meat to grab hold of in a piece set to be developed further for an autumn tour supported by the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

The Line We Draw is a work in progress by solo performer Skye Loneragan, which, over 30 minutes of light-as-gossamer dramatised verse, joins the dots between childish imagination and the diminishing returns of being a grown-up. While live drawings by Jenny Soep are projected behind her, Loneragan becomes a Dr Seuss-like teacher revelling in her playfulness while at the same time issuing a warning about the dangers of losing her sense of wonder.

You can read Loneragan like a book as she opens herself out via a colourful litany of love lost and found and the comforts of madness in face of an all too serious big bad world of adulthood. Loneragan is saved by the bell at the end of her verbal and visual riff, and it will be fascinating to watch how The Line We Draw develops next. For now, take your time to be small is Loneragan's overriding instruction. As she makes clear, no-one asks about your drawings when you're big. If they did, perhaps we'd be in a healthier place.

Another literary adaptation comes in A Woman in Berlin, taken from the anonymous diary written at the end of World War Two by a German woman who chooses to survive the Russian invasion and occupation of her country by any means necessary. The indignities she must face include rape, starvation and sexual subjugation of all kinds. That she comes through this at all is a miracle, but to do so with her dignity intact in Iain McClure's version, makes a striking statement.

Deborah Neville's production is performed by Molly Taylor in what is possibly the deepest corner of The Arches to yet be used as a theatre space, its bare walls and confined area more resembling a cell than the home in which the woman is forced to embrace her rude intruders. Taylor gives a vivid depiction of the woman as she narrates her journey, successfully coming out the other side stronger and wiser. It's a lot to pack into 40 minutes, but Taylor holds the attention with a portrayal of steely determination that remains vulnerable rather than overwrought. As with the other two pieces, A Woman in Berlin is a serious study of the choices one can make in the face of mental and physical invasion. That they deliver their dramatic punches so disparately and effectively without offering easy answers, is what truly brings them to blazing life.