Saturday, October 15, 2011

Review: The Wild Bride

I am stingy with my standing ovations. I sometimes feel that they are delivered too easily in the Irish theatre. Yet, last night, I was one of the first to pop up like a meercat in the avalanche of applause and shouting that greeted The End of Kneehigh's The Wild Bride. Part Brothers Grimm, part musical, part a lovechild of Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton, it's all wonderful.

The Wild Bride channels old folktales about the tribulations and triumphs of the female spirit. The roles are archetypal and nameless: the important, near Freudian, dual masculine of The Father/The Prince, the threefold self of The Girl/The Wild/The Woman, The Devil and The Musician. The limited cast are reminiscent of mystery plays or mummers. At no point is the audience allowed to forget that this is a play, a story. Folktale motifs appear here and there throughout the tripartite set, the events are narrated in skillful rhyme by the Devil (magnificent Stuart McLoughlin), and the cast occasionally slams the door in the fourth wall wide open. The dreamlike, timeless stage setting, with its dark, earthy and sepia tones, interacts well with the red opulence of the Gaiety Theatre. The spectator is moved slightly out of time and place.

The cast are remarkably multitalented. Acting aside, the roles involve dancing, live music and singing. The music is a heady mix of gospel, jazz, ragtime, blues and folk. The singing is as good as it can be in a theatre environment, with Audrey Brisson (The Girl) in particular producing unearthly chants from such a small frame.

"I didn't think theatre came that good in this country," remarked my rather cynical companion as we were leaving. As it happens, Kneehigh are based in Cornwall. Full points to the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival for bringing them to us. I for one will keep keeping an eye on this company and agree with my companion who proceeded to announce, "I'd travel for them."

The Wild Bride at the Gaiety very sadly ends today after only three performances.

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