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Bluebeard, Soho Theatre – Review

Hattie Naylor
Directed by Lee Lyford

Pros: Paul Mundell is a beguiling actor who carries an intense 60 minute monologue with ease.

Cons: Some may think the story is overly gratuitous. Rather than challenge the audience, I felt the story almost places Bluebeard on a pedestal. Considering it is a discussion about abusive relationships, it seems irregular that no women are present!

Our Verdict: Too gratuitous and one-sided for me, Bluebeard doesn’t quite allow the audience to be challenged in the way the production company Gallivant would wish them to be challenged.

Courtesy of Soho Theatre

Don’t take you children to see Bluebeard at the Upstairs Soho Theatre this winter season. It is not a pantomime! Despite having the title of a well-known story from our childhood, Hattie Naylor’s re-telling of this gruesome fairy-tale has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. One could argue that the modern day audience has become immune to anything but the most explicit and graphic types of violence. With this in mind, Naylor’s piece was written as an attempt to use Bluebeard’s tale to challenge society’s complacency and apparent infatuation with abusive relationships (of which 50 Shades of Grey is an example). It wanted to show how dangerous these types of relationships can be to women and their position in society.

However, Bluebeard came across less as an exploration of society’s acceptance of sexually motivated violence than an egotistical boast from a deviant and violent man. The play attempted to question how society has come to accept sexual violence in the news and on TV, as well as explore the position and power (or lack of it) women hold in this context. Unfortunately, rather than leave the venue feeling empowered and angry, I left feeling as if my disgust at Bluebeard’s actions was inappropriate. By removing any female voices in this story, and actually allowing Bluebeard to parody the only strong woman in the piece, I don’t think this adaptation allowed us to challenge society’s complicity in these acts and behaviours.

Saying that, I enjoyed all the other aspects of this production. Paul Mundell plays the charming yet sadistic Bluebeard, who beguiles his way into your bed before playing out his vicious fetishes on your body. Mundell could give Andrew Scott (of Moriaty fame from the BBC’s Sherlock) a run for his money. Mundell plays the cool, collected, yet clearly psychopathic Bluebeard with spooky grace and ease. The character genuinely made my skin crawl, and it was with a sigh of relief that I clapped at the end when Mundell’s sincere smile lit up the room during the curtain call.

The tubular lighting design by Ben Dodds was simple and very effective, giving the piece a clinical feel, and Lee Lyford’s directing of the brilliant Mundell added to the tense nature of the show.

So I give this show three stars. That is a very subjective score, because regardless of the brilliant performance delivered by Paul Mundell, and the simple yet stylistic set and lights, I can’t personally agree that this show does what it sets out to do. Sadly, I left feeling as if I was being dictated to. Perhaps this was exactly the outcome Hattie Naylor wanted, to remind us that people like Bluebeard are dangerous, that there is nothing sexy or appealing about them. However, personally I feel that we would have been more inclined to listen had Naylor allowed a woman’s voice into her script.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Bluebeard runs at the Soho Theatre until the 1st December 2013.
Box Office: 020 7478 0100 or book online at http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/bluebeard

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