Culture Writer Samantha Hadley reviews Blue Beard finding it to be compelling and sensitive in its portrayal of plot and character.

Written by Sam Hadley

Written and directed by the inimitable Emma Rice, Blue Beard follows the interlinked stories of sisters Trouble and Lucky, who fall under the spell of the enticing magician, Blue Beard, after the death of their father. Mother Superior – the leader of the Fearful, F*cked and Furious commune – interjects witticisms throughout the tale, and encourages the Lost Brother to share his own stories of growing up with his older sister. Overall, Blue Beard was a corporeal comedic triumph, and the emotional core of the narrative revealed towards the end of the play was compellingly and sensitively delivered.  

Overall, Blue Beard was a corporeal comedic triumph

The star of the show was Mother Superior, performed expertly by Katy Owen. From the hilarious “parish notices” she delivered at the start of each act, to her wry, foreboding comments about the dangers of men throughout various scenes, it was hard to look away from this masterclass in acting. Robyn Sinclair – who portrayed Lucky – was also a standout, as her character had the biggest arc of the show, yet Sinclair’s performance helped maintain a consistent character through these changes, eliciting audience sympathy throughout. For such a small cast, they all multi-roled seamlessly, and they had a collective energy that held the audience’s attention for the entire duration of the play.  

Blue Beard is split into an A plot and a B plot, which only fully intersect at the end of the play – the A plot following the magician and the sisters, and the B plot following the Lost Brother (played by Adam Mirsky) and the Lost Sister (played by Mirabelle Gremaud). Unfortunately, the B plot felt less original and exciting than the A plot, and while watching the B plot, I was wondering when we were going to return to the A plot, which felt a lot more imaginative and exciting in comparison. While the B plot did have an emotional payoff at the end which justified its presence, the highlights of the play came from the A plot. 

While the songs felt a little forgettable at times (the day after the show, I can only vaguely remember the “Greedy Girls” song at the end of Act One), the choreography was absolutely fantastic, and helped bring the songs and characters to life. In one scene, the sisters and their mother (played by Patrycja Kujawska) depict a galloping horse by slowly cycling their arms and letting their shoes in their hands hit the floor to mimic the regular rhythm of a horse’s hooves, which was inventive and exciting to watch. This is satisfyingly paralleled in Act Two, where a man, with a red ribbon held between his teeth, is handled by the women like a wild horse. Equally exciting was the stage combat, which expertly flowed between slow motion blows (allowing Owen to sneak in some stellar comedic facial expressions) and gripping fast-paced action.  

Other strong directorial choices helped Blue Beard to stand out. The costumes and anthem of the convent were unexpected but really fun, and in slower moments I couldn’t help wishing we had spent more time with the convent instead of the B plot, even if they served a less vital narrative function. The tone effectively segued from playful to sombre at the start of Act Two, when the sisters and mother slowly turned to face the audience, revealing expressions of distress and running black mascara despite still wearing their colourful outfits from the euphoric finale of Act One. I also thought the choice of the mother and sisters to wear black underlayers was subtly effective, as it demonstrated to the audience that the grief for their father was still present despite their vibrant new lives with the magician. 

It has a wickedly funny script, with an emotional vulnerability beneath it that is thought-provoking and painfully relevant

Overall, Blue Beard is a technically strong and emotionally convincing production, carried by its energetic cast and unique technical choices and corporeal movements. It has a wickedly funny script, with an emotional vulnerability beneath it that is thought-provoking and painfully relevant. 

Rating: 4/5

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