REVIEW: Blue Beard packs a punch at The Rep

This captivating play, which is enjoying its world premiere at The Rep, tells a sadly all-too-familiar story of a murderous man and the women who fall victim to him.

But it does so in an unusual, often comedic, but ultimately brilliant way.

Writer and director Emma Rice has taken a 17th century French folk tale and transformed it, kicking and screaming, into the modern consciousness following the recent real-life murders of Sarah Everard and Zara Aleena.

But despite the hugely emotional climax, which rightly contributed to a standing applause from the audience, this is anything but a straight-forward crime drama.

Blue Beard, which continues at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until Saturday 20 April, has encapsulated just about everything into the all-too-brief production of less than two hours.

There are occasional hilarious interludes, such as references to a certain chocolate bar and a celebrity chef’s TV cookery show, while the outstanding cast demonstrate singing and musicianship skills to match their undoubted acting ability.

The play, which is a co-production between Birmingham Rep, Wise Children Theatre, HOME Manchester, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, and York Theatre Royal, opens at the Convent of the Three F’s – which stand for fearful, fast and furious.

We are introduced to the Mother Superior, splendidly sporting a fine blue beard, who is visited by a young man seeking help.

The story then separates into different threads – the young man and his troubled older sister, the death of a ‘good man’ who leaves a widow and two daughters, and the introduction of a magician who was strangely born with a shock of blue hair and now wears a beard of the same striking colour.

The various threads intertwine, as we discover the magician’s powerful spell over women as the widow and her daughters, nicknamed Lucky and Trouble, succumb.

Gradually, the secret of his former young wives is revealed, as the sisters of the story seek their revenge in the name of womanhood.

But there is, sadly, a more poignant thread as, finally, we learn the reason for the young man’s visit to the convent.

An absolutely brilliant cast is led by Katy Owen as the Mother Superior, who has her own back story at the end, while the other stars of the play consist of Robyn Sinclair as Lucky, Stephanie Hockley as Trouble, Patrycja Kujawska as their mother, Tristan Sturrock as Blue Beard, Adam Mirsky as the young man and Mirabelle Gremaud as his sister.

For more information, and to book tickets, visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk.

All pictures by Steve Tanner.

ENDS

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