Review: BLUEBEARD, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

A haunting exploration of misogynistic violence

By: Mar. 15, 2024
Review: BLUEBEARD, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
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Review: BLUEBEARD, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh Emma Rice reimagines the infamous folktale of a man who locks away his murdered wives through an eccentrically movement-led, magical and musical extravaganza.

We are greeted by the Convent of the 3 Fs (Fearful, F*cked and Furious) led by the endearing Mother Superior (played fantastically by Katy Owen) who sports an abundance of blue facial hair. Convent sisters are visited by the Lost Brother (Adam Mirsky) searching despairingly for his sister. Embracing a tale-within-a-tale format, Mother Superior tells him the story of an enticing magician (Bluebeard, played slyly by Tristan Sturrock) who seduces and marries Lucky (Robyn Sinclair) after sawing her in half at a magic show.

Mother Superior is an oddball fairy godmother figure guiding us through a thwarted Wes Anderson-esque fairytale featuring live instruments, original songs (composed by Stu Baker), clever dance routines and ostentatious costumes.... but here, there is no happy ending. The Bluebeard tale becomes an urgent message surrounding male violence against women. Despite his story being published in 1697, contemporary Bluebeards are disturbingly present everywhere. This begs the question: how much has actually changed?

I cannot fault any actors. Lighting (Malcolm Rippeth) and costumes (Vicki Mortimer) are delightful, lending well to the quirky jazz-club vibe. Musical numbers were clever but long-winded, especially in the first act. The traditional Bluebeard tale isn't lengthy, and it did feel too drawn out, depicted by scenes needing considerable cuts. For most of the play I enjoyed the quirky aesthetic, but was confused about the connections between numerous narratives. The plot-twist at the end tying loose strings together felt too little too late.

The play does display Emma Rice's characteristic eccentricity, wit and theatrical experimentation. Personally, I think this is enough to spark a high recommendation. However, it was dispiriting to undergo such a long wait before embracing the empowering message of the piece.

Bluebeard is at the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh until 30 March.

Image Credit: Steve Tanner


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