Pros: The music. Seriously good mashups, unexpected new arrangements and clever original songs.
Cons: Both the script and the concept could do with a little tightening up.
The Brides of Bluebeard is an innovative retelling of an old folktale about a murderous nobleman who kills (and possibly eats) a whole string of wives. But, whereas the original story is very much Henry VIII meets Hannibal Lecter, cabaret ensemble The Ruby Dolls have put a slightly lighter twist on things. One of the interesting variations is that each of Bluebeard’s wives is from a different historical period, which allows the Dolls to show us the changing role and status of the married woman. There are also jokes, audience interaction and lots of close harmony singing, so, despite what the original story might suggest, you’re definitely not in for a grim evening here.
The concept is very enjoyable, and fits in well with the overall vibe of Camden People’s Theatre’s annual festival of feminist performance, Calm Down Dear. The songs are particularly delightful; whether it’s the darkly-humourous original writing of Edible Wife or the Glee-worthy mashup of Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé, the music really kicks the show up a notch.
With no set and little costume (four wedding dresses), the Dolls have to rely on their stage presence and voices to keep the audience engaged. Fortunately they lack neither; in fact, their voices did such a good job of filling CPT’s tiny auditorium that they probably would’ve been better off without microphones.
Both jokes and songs come thick and fast; perhaps too much so. The 75-minute show could definitely do with a little tightening. The long exposition in which we get to know each wife starts off fun, but by the time the end is in sight, there’s still wife number four to get through and the show starts to feel tedious. The songs, although entertaining, usually go on just a little too long as well. And there’s one tune, Eurythmics-cum-cabaret, in which we hear about how all the dodgy CEOs, bankers and politicians are basically the same type of man – Bluebeard. It’s a massively entertaining song, and probably my favourite of the show, but it seems oddly macro-political in comparison to the rest. On the whole it feels like the Dolls and director Iain Johnstone played around with a few different ideas for the show, could not make up their minds, and then decided to just not decide at all.
That being said, The Brides of Bluebeard is a fun evening out with a lot of catchy songs and plenty of laughs. Just be warned: you will be singing about crunchable bones and spreadable brains on the bus back home.
Created by: The Ruby Dolls
Director: Iain Johnstone
Musical Director: Benjamin Cox
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.