Emma Rice's Blue Beard

Emma Rice's adaptation of the Charles Perrault classic fairy tale, Blue Beard, breathes new life into this timeless tale, offering audiences a captivating and thought-provoking theatrical experience.  This show is hard-hitting; however, it’s mixed with humour to ease the pace of the dark storyline and experiences throughout.  There is an element of eccentricity to the piece, and if I’m totally honest I found myself quite confused during the first half, however the second half was able to answer all the questions I had swirling around my mind.

The show opens with the Sisters of the ‘Convent of the Three F’s’ (Fearful, F*cked and Furious) headed up by Mother Superior (Katy Owen) who provided an extremely animated and heart wrenching performance as the show reached its dramatic climax.  Throughout the show Owen was able to throw much needed humour straight into the audience, including very funny ‘parish notices’ at the start of each half.  Mother Superior acts as the narrator, depicting the story of Blue Beard (Tristan Sturrock), a magician, with a spectacularly dark secret to a boy, known as Lost Brother (Adam Mirsky) who arrives at the convent looking for help.

We were entertained with some magical illusions, the classic ‘saw a girl in half’ trick garnered much applause from the audience and added another layer of delight to the show. Sturrock, as Blue Beard, commanded the stage with his narcissistic tendencies fully on show towards his new wife known as Lucky (Robyn Sinclair), however it is not until he leaves the home for work that, along with her sister Trouble (Stephanie Hockley) and their mother, Treasure (Patrycja Kujawska), they discover a very dark secret surrounding Blue Beard’s previous wives.  Thanks to Fight Director Maisie Carter, we were able to witness the demise of an evil man whose only joy in life was to bring horror to the lives of others.

It was a joy to see the performers double up as musicians throughout the show.  For me, the music was outstanding.  With a jazz style, each tune was a real treat for the ears thanks to composer Stu Barker.  My particular favourite came from a performance by Stephanie Hockley as Trouble, who also played the piano.  A truly phenomenal voice that I could have listened to all evening.

As we progressed into the second half, the story became much clearer, however I feel there would be a disservice to the production for me to reveal the dramatic conclusion to the story.  It is certainly something that you need to experience first-hand and to feel the way I did, which came as a sucker punch, upon its reveal.  Needless to say, there are many important stories to be taken from the show, which include domestic abuse, coercive behaviour and violence against women, which unfortunately still stands in society to this very day.

I was impressed with Emma Rice’s impeccable writing, especially when it centres around such major issues.  Yes, it was a little crazy in parts, but at its essence it was a beautifully crafted, evocative piece of theatre.

This show was reviewed on the 10th April 2024 at the Birmingham REP where it runs until the 20th April 2024.  Tickets available here: Emma Rice's Blue Beard | Birmingham Rep (birmingham-rep.co.uk)

Review written by Emma Rowley


Photo credit: Steve Tanner

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