Birmingham,  theatre

Emma Rice’s Bluebeard – Bold, Brave And Brilliant

A new show opened at The Rep Birmingham last night that was stylish, shocking and utterly spellbinding. Emma Rice’s retelling of Bluebeard was described by The Guardian as a ‘fairy tale’ but for me it is more like a horror story told in the style of a Wiemar Republic cabaret, complete with seductive songs and performances. This is a show that has it all, a murderous central story, a charismatic villain, beautiful heroines in red shoes, magic tricks and a kick ass nuns. But it also has a modern day story to run alongside the Bluebeard legend, a tale of a talented singer who never made it home after a gig, and it is this story that gives the play its soul, and its utterly devastating finale. This is a piece of theatre all who watched wont forget. It is astounding.

Tristan Sturrock. Credit Steve Tanner.
Stephanie Hockley, Robyn Sinclair and Patrycja Kujawska. Credit Steve Tanner

Why does the Mother Superior (Katy Owen) have a blue beard? That is the story at the start of the tale. It is to remember the legendary wife killer (a charismatic yet sinister turn by Tristan Sturrock) and the three woman who finally brought about his downfall, the widow Treasure (Patrycja Kujawska) and her two daughters, Lucky (Robyn Sinclair) and Trouble (Stephanie Hockley). It was Lucky who fell in love with Bluebeard, and Lucky who betrayed his trust and revealed all his horrible secrets. The nun with the blue beard tells this story to a young runaway, the lost brother (Adam Mirsky) but he has a horrible tale all of his own, about a lost sister (Mirabelle Gremaud), another woman who never came home, a modern victim of male violence. How the two tales come together is masterful, both clever and heartbreaking.

Adam Mirsky and Mirabelle Gremaud. Credit Steve Tanner.
Robyn Sinclair, Patrycja Kujawska and Stephanie Hockley. Credit Steve Tanner

The whole cast is just phenomenal. They can sing, dance, play instruments and act, and even indulge in the odd magic trick. The vocals of Stephanie Hockley, Robyn Sinclair and Mirabelle Gremaud are simply incredible, whilst Katy Owen has the ability to make you laugh out loud (Jamie Oliver anyone) and then can break your heart with one of the most visceral displays of grief you will ever see, one which also echoes against the quieter despair showed by Treasure, as played by wonderfully by Patrycja Kujawska after the loss of her perfect man. Adam Mirsky, as the brother telling his tale, is also very moving, whilst Tristan Sturrock is great as Bluebeard effortlessly combining the combination of charm and pure evil.

ristan Sturrock and Katy Owen. Credit Steve Tanner

The elegant sets give this a decadent cabaret feel, and the fact that humour is combined with the darkness ensures that this is an incredible watch. The brilliant, songs that range from disco to gospel tinged ballads are perfect, a testament to the genius of Stu Barker, whilst the choreography is, in turns, sexy, elegant, and sometimes hilarious.

Bluebeard is bold, brilliant and very brave, with lots to say about the treatment of women, both in the past and the present. It is an absolute must see.

Emma Rice’s Bluebeard

Until 20th April The Rep Birmingham

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