Thursday, June 20

Bluebeard’s Castle – Churchill Theatre

The collaboration between director/librettist, Daisy Evans, and conductor/arranger, Stephen Higgins, to create a dementia tale from Bartók’s only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, is startlingly clever and beautifully produced. The set by Adrian Linford is simple, yet effective. The lighting is perfect for a castle where the sun never shines. The Hebrides Ensemble play like angels. And the two voices: Michael Mayes and Charlotte Hellekant – superb!

Gone is the gothic horror and the manipulation of the male/female power dynamic of the original to be replaced by the less blameworthy machinations of memory loss through dementia. In reality, dementia is equally as frightening in its thievery, but not so terrifying in its conscious malice.

In this version, Bluebeard and his wife, Judith, revisit memories locked away in a trunk and only accessible sometimes to Judith, who is suffering from dementia, but all the time to Bluebeard, her caring husband. Theirs is a loving relationship. Yet, Bluebeard still holds the power. Here, Judith is represented as all the wives – wives through the ages. The opened locks reveal memories of her as a young woman, a new mother, etc. It is tender. It is never threatening. Judith is finally on stage with a night time brew, vacant and isolated.

Given the vast number of elderly now living with dementia in one form or another, this is a piece that speaks to most of us who know someone in this predicament.

Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield

Reviewed: 24th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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