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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Bluebeard: A Fairy Tale for Adults
Bluebeard: A Fairy Tale for Adults
Published on Friday, 12 August 2011

5 stars (Critic's Choice)

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
4-15, 17-28 Aug, 6:55pm-7:45pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

As we file down the metal steps into one if the Underbelly’s quirky spaces, ready for a fairy tale, we are met by an appropriately fey compere (Jacob Beswick) – urging us into plum front row seats and charming us into sitting comfortably. It’s an indicator of the offbeat charm of the production to come, and I was already under its spell.

Milk are a relatively new, young company, and this show buzzed with ideas and breathless visual panache. The hard-working five-strong cast not only produce and direct the show themselves, but also create all the striking visuals during the performance – including psychedelic projections and a lighting rig powered by a tandem bike. Sound effects come from an old gramophone, a tape recorder and the cast’s own musical talents, including some decadent jazz singing from the Bluebeard himself (Adam Robertson).

But what makes this show really special is the way it deals in deeper themes. The compere introducing the show wonders why we, the audience, are even here: surely we know this story. Bluebeard lasciviously explains a little later that he knows just what we want to hear about… and so we become somewhat complicit in his crimes.

The horrible murders of his wives are paraded to entertain us, with much made of their innocence and domestic capabilities: one works in a laundry, one bakes and the final wife Pam (Ruby Glaskin) wants nothing more than domestic bliss.  All the while, Bluebeard prowls and preens, and tells us with a wink that he can barely remember which of them was which.

If anything, the only trouble is how much the startling scope of the production overpowers the slightness of the fairy tale underneath. I won’t give away the ending, but the climactic resolution of the Bluebeard story is barely worth describing. However, the company are aware of this and rush over it, to get us to the real point: the disturbing nature of the story and its enduring popularity.

What drives our fascinations with a man like Bluebeard, who disposes of his wives as he pleases and feels no remorse? Why did we come to see this show – as was pointed out, we already knew the story? And when monsters like this aren’t under your bed, but just might be in it, is it any wonder that the happily-ever-after part of this tale is its least convincing moment?

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