Emma Rice is without question one of the most influential theatre makers of recent decades.
An entire generation of young students has been raised watching the brilliant creations of Knee High and her more recent work.
With her Frome-based Theatre Company, Wise Children, Rice reimagines the tale of Bluebeard, transformed for the modern audience.
Traditionally a tale of a controlling, narcissistic husband whose wives must obey him else they are murdered and stacked in the forbidden room.
In this production, a mirror is held to the dangerous, abusive world that women and girls find themselves navigating. The female characters are powerful, clever and striving to be safe as they walk alone.
It is a multi-layered complex show with original music by the excellent Stu Barker arranged by Ian Ross.
The cast of actor / musicians reflect their extraordinary talents; the end of Act 1 being a particular highlight as Stephanie Hockley (Trouble and Musical Director) takes centre stage like a rock star.
Katy Owen as Mother Superior leads the company; straight-talking, damaged and fighting to keep her sisters safe.
The darkness is never far away despite the excellent comedy and as her story unravels the audience fall silent with the final twist both heartbreaking and a call for solidarity. Many women feeling “seen” and the need for escape will always be the hardest choice but essential – hence the strap line “Open the Bloody Door” both symbolically and physically.
Stephanie Hockley and Robyn Sinclair as Trouble and Lucky; the curious sisters who seek freedom are a great pairing. Mirabelle Gremaud as the Lost Sister is mesmerising as the wannabe singer who finds peace in her music and gigs.
Adam Mirsky as the Lost Brother creates a strong bond with his sister and his plea for help allows the story to start. Patrycja Kujawska is Treasure; the final link in the women who need to break free of Bluebeard before they join the bodies in the cupboard.
Tristan Sturrock (Bluebeard) is both beguiling and dangerous in the titular role. His need to control his women clear and the threat is always there.
There is so much packed into the performance, it is a feast for Emma Rice fans and students alike.
However, the pain and reality of the content holds a massive punch which is kept until the final moments having been lulled into the chaotic, hedonistic world of Act 1.
The show is in its early stages and no doubt as it grows and continues under this stunning company and the eagle eyes of Rice it will become a benchmark piece for many and ensure her place in Theatrical Royalty continues.
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Reviewer: Petra Schofield