Venue: Bondi Pavilion Theatre (Bondi NSW), Jul 25 – 29, 2017
Original concept: Curly Fernandez
Director: Michael Dean
Cast: Curly Fernandez, Melissa Hume, Gideon Payten-Griffiths
In this version of an old folktale, Bluebeard is a 42 year-old man who goes prowling in clubs, on nights known to be popular with students. They story begins for us, when he meets a 19 year-old girl. They drink and flirt, and everything seems quite normal, until she decides to go home with Bluebeard. Things begin to turn strange, with the man becoming increasingly menacing, and us wondering how much terror the girl is bound to undergo.
The story is unequivocally dark, but the show is whimsical, relentlessly quirky with all of its modes of expression. Situated in a beachside changing room, the staging space is unnerving, with its refusal of letting us hold on to our usual expectations of theatre. We should always think that “anything can happen” with art, but conventions are hard to defy. Bluebeard removes us from the security of a darkened auditorium, and successfully changes how we relate to the nature of live performance.
Having freed itself from the ordinary, the production is able to expose its audience to a truly creative and experimental exploration of the art form. Engulfed by the sound of rumbling pipes and the chill of concrete walls, our senses are more alive, and we want to read meaning into everything, because it all seems to embody significance.
Director Michael Dean embraces the exotic, making magic out of the impossible, to create an environment that allows us to share in his wonderful vision of a scary encounter. The absence of lighting design is restrictive in terms of the provision of atmospheric shifts for this grotesque piece, but the close proximity of performers ensures that we are kept engaged. All three are fascinating creatures. Curly Fernandez, Melissa Hume and Gideon Payten-Griffiths are completely vulnerable, unprotected from our unforgiving scrutiny at close range, under the cruel glare of fluorescent tubes. In a play where words are only a small element, their every move speaks volumes and the text we are presented is unexpectedly rich.
The girl is caught in a waking nightmare, but Bluebeard does not ask us for an emotional response. Our sympathy is not required. We absorb and analyse, finding an understanding of that which unfolds, and then relating that present event to the real world outside. Women are often disempowered, that is true, but how we navigate being in that position, is where things get interesting.