Monday, 24 October 2011

The Wild Bride – theatre review

Photo copyright Steve Tanner

Oh, joy of joys – the almighty Kneehigh Theatre Group are back in Bristol, this time with their touring show The Wild Bride. I first enjoyed them at the Bristol Old Vic last year in The Red Shoes (wistful sigh), so when I got wind of the fact they were riding back into town I made sure I booked tickets quick smart.

The Wild Bride (adapted and directed by Emma Rice) was performed at the majestic St George’s while the main theatre at the Old Vic is closed for refurbishment, and the smaller scale of this former church only adds to the intensity of the performance. 

The plot is straightforward enough: a simple farmer mistakenly sells his daughter to the devil, and then tries his best to wriggle out of the deal. Though the devil is a hard task master. However, if you read The Wild Bride as a feminist morality tale, you could argue that the daughter/bride is emblematic of women generally who have been dealt a hard deal at the hands of foolish men. 

The innocent daughter is sold by her dad to the devil, who then rejects her for being too pure. So he insists on painting her in muck, cutting her hands off, and then casts her out into the wild, where she is left to fend for herself... before a prince rescues her, briefly, and she ends up as a homeless single mother, again at the hands of cruel men. The tale of woman's woe doesn't end there, but I won't say more for risk of spoiling the plot. 

In typical Kneehigh style, the play is a combination of bluegrass music, inventive sets, multipurpose costumes, and wonderful singing and dancing from deeply talented people. Audrey Brisson, Patrycja Kujawska and Eva Magyar are all magnificent in varied ways as the Bride at different life stages, and Stuart McLoughlin is truly chilling as the devil (aided by the fact his devil seems to look like Jeremy Kyle!).

I hope it's not too long before Kneehigh are back in town with their next production.

This was the last night of the short run, so I hope you had a chance to catch it in Bristol while you could. If not, don’t fret as it’s on tour – full details on the link here.

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