Bluebeard

Sun 16th – Sat 22nd August 2015

reviews

Llewelyn Hopwood

at 10:00 on 23rd Aug 2015

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One doesn’t always expect an impressive demonstration of physical theatre when walking through a door labelled ‘cloakroom’. This is what occurs, however, when an audience member enters the Spotlites to see a performance of Bluebeard. In a modern, physical re-telling of the French folk tale of the same title, HeadLock theatre pull off a compact and intense production that is a vivid experience for your imagination, but doesn’t always hit the mark.

Through constant fluid movement, the cast combine dance and drama almost seamlessly, with the choreography being the clear selling point - the dancing never ceases and never gets boring. From the striking opening monologue of Mrs. Blue Dalton, who hauntingly awaits the audience’s entrance sat on a table before hurtling into a dynamic introduction, to the fluid vigour of the dialogues between Bower Young and her brother, Chalk, there is a sense of constant flowing motion. Indeed, an audience member forgets how enclosed the venue is since the cast do not leave an inch of space untouched.

The use of repetition and elaboration in some scenes is especially effective, as the trio at the dinner table move from being a relatively content family with corresponding choreography with the cutlery, to a distraught and malfunctioning one, reflected in the increasing lack of synchronization. However, this technique’s effectiveness is somewhat lost, when the opening sensual scene between Mrs. Blue Dalton and Bower turns into a rather violent fight that spirals into a brawl involving all three characters, casting a shadow on the wonderful stylish scenes that came before it.

This blip would be forgivable were it not for the weak portrayal of Mrs. Blue Dalton. Instead of embracing the new take on the character Bluebeard – turning the folk tale’s tyrannous, ugly, old man into a young woman - the actress’s mind-set seemed to be stuck in the shackles of the original portrayal, which leads to an unconvincing voice trying hard to be booming and authoritative, but ends up being strained and out-of-place. The constant air of ‘baddy’ anger that surrounded this portrayal soon gets tiresome and ultimately causes what is meant to be a final eruption to lose its potential effectiveness.

Nevertheless, the acting in general should be praised as much as the dancing. Although at times the over-enthusiasm is tickling, not only do the cast get away with it, but this is a key addition to the pallet that allows the actors to paint the vivid pictures of Bower and Chalk searching the grand house in which they have been left.

Overall, one can’t help but feel that the choreography direction and execution somewhat overshadows all else in what is essentially a good piece of physical theatre.

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Josie Finlay

at 10:59 on 23rd Aug 2015

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A modern retelling of the chilling French folk tale, Bluebeard’s success lies in its resourceful minimalism – three bodies, some bare furniture and cutlery is an ample toolbox in the hands of Headlock Theatre, despite the lack of any particularly commendable acting performances.

Rebecca Solomon as the mysterious Blue cuts an engaging figure during her soliloquy in the opening scene of the play, helped along by the rhyming verse of her script, which contributes to her sinister presence. Ben Price is endearing as vulnerable brother Chalk and Tori Klays does a fair job with a part that, script-wise, is ultimately forgettable. But all three performances begin to wear a little thin as the play unfolds – the spoken interaction between the three is slightly stale and repetitive, and none of the three seem to possess acting skills that stand out as being particularly groundbreaking. Some scenes have a slight air of GCSE Drama-esque predictability.

It is in the clever use of movement and manipulation of simple props that the piece really shines. As a relative newcomer to physical theatre, I was apprehensive about gratuitous outbreaks of dance – but Headlock Theatre’s employment of the genre is colourful and varied, but never unnecessarily flamboyant or pretentious. The actors are graceful in their movements, remaining unruffled even when working in the occasional somersault or cartwheel. Their bodily interactions with one another display a clear chemistry, functioning far more smoothly than their vocal dialogue.

Particularly effective were several scenes in which the characters communicate solely in silent looks and rhythmic taps of cutlery on the dining table, creating a palpable tension that is absent from the script. The sinister house serves as a fourth character in itself, and the three actors effectively use their minimal resources to transcend the bare stage space, cleverly managing to evoke the creaking, mouldering old mansion entombed with nightmarish secrets.

In the case of Bluebeard, a dance sequence is worth a thousand words – so much more was expressed in the subtle movements of bodies and props in time with one another than with the sometimes contrived, occasionally shouty dialogue. Headlock Theatre have created an original, innovative update of the folktale, choreographed perfectly, right down to the last leg-kick and fork-slam.

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