Photo by: The Ruby Dolls Photo by: The Ruby Dolls

Review: The Brides of Bluebeard at Camden People's Theatre

Written for Everything Theatre

The Brides of Bluebeard is an innovative retelling of the old folktale about a murderous nobleman who kills (and possibly eats) a whole string of wives. But whereas the original story is very much Henry VIII meets Hannibal Lecter, cabaret ensemble The Ruby Dolls have put a slightly lighter twist on things. One of the interesting variations is that each of Bluebeard’s wives is from a different historical period, which allows the Dolls to show us the changing role and status of the married woman. There’s also jokes, audience interaction and lots of close harmony singing, so, despite what the original story might suggest, you’re definitely not in for a grim evening here.

The concept is very enjoyable, and fits in well with the overall vibe of Camden People’s Theatre’s annual festival of feminist performance, Calm Down Dear. Especially the songs really take the show up a notch, whether it’s the darkly-humourous original writing of Edible Wife or the Glee-worthy mashup of Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé.

Without any set or much costume to speak of (four wedding dresses), the Dolls have rely on their stage presence and voices to keep the audience engaged. Fortunately, they aren’t lacking in either; in fact, their voices did such a good job of filling CPT’s tiny auditorium that they probably would’ve been better off without microphones.

Both jokes and songs come thick and fast, perhaps rather much so. The 75-minute show could definitely do with a little tightening. The long exposition in which we get to know each wife starts off fun, but by the time you can already see the end looming, and there’s still wife number four to get through, it starts to drag. The songs, while entertaining, usually go on just a little too long as well. And then there’s one tune, Eurythmics-cum-cabaret, in which we hear about how all the dodgy CEOs, bankers and politicians are basically the same type of man (AKA Bluebeard). It’s a massively entertaining song, probably my favourite of the evening, but it does seem oddly macro-political in comparison to the rest. On the whole it feels like the Dolls and director Iain Johnstone played around with a few different ideas for the show, could not make up their minds and then decided to just not decide at all.

That being said, The Brides of Bluebeard is a fun evening out with a lot of catchy songs and plenty of laughs. Just be warned: you will be singing about crunchable bones and spreadable brains on the bus back home.

This show has now completed its run at Camden People's Theatre