Theatre Festival review: The Wild Bride
Go see it. It’s wonderful. I could nearly leave that as my review but it deserves much more. The Wild Bride at the Gaiety Theatre is an adventure, a love story, a folk tale and a musical. It’s enchanting, entertaining, compelling, funny, scary and brilliant.
I’ll admit that I am smitten or taken (whichever sounds less scary) with Audrey Brisson, the girl who becomes the Wild Bride. She is perhaps the best place to start this review, as, strikingly beautiful, multi disciplined and apparently good humoured as she is, she embodies the entire piece – a vibrant, creative, gorgeous action packed play that will appeal to fans of theatre, pantomime, circus, cabaret and music all at once. Quite the feat but Kneehigh, who have brought this to Dublin have managed it admirably.
“What’s in your back yard?” the Devil asks a woodcutter. In this tale narrated by the Devil we’re introduced to a place that time has forgotten but somehow we’re all familiar with – as featured in all good folk tales. A live band on a set that any child would love to play on and explore, the six cast on stage invite more attention than they command – they’re simply lovely to look at.
Swapping a life of poverty – “I’m so poor I can’t afford to pay attention” – for a life of riches (and a new hat), a man foresakes his beguiling, bewitching and lovely daughter, condemning her to be chased by the Devil throughout her life. It is a simple beginning, accompanied by bluegrass music reminding me in many ways of ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’.
I was enthralled not only by Brisson’s performance, but the collaboration between all the cast, all talented singers, musicians and actors. My hopes that The Wild Bride wouldn’t prove to be ordinary theatre were fulfilled.
This is due mostly to the extraordinary cast. Three beautiful women dance on stage, all playing the Bride at various points in her life and three strong males – Stuart McLoughlin as the Devil has a voice you’d sell your soul for, while Stuart Goodwin as the Father and the Prince is fortunate enough to dance, sing and mess with Brisson, Patrycja Kujawska and Éva Magyar with vigour, skill and no small amount of envy from myself and, I’d say, a fair few of the men watching. Emma Rice as director has helped them bring their skill to the fore, with Carl Grose‘s text and lyrics and Stu Barker‘s compositions as inspiration.
There are bawdy elements to the show – a yoga session in the second half had me staring open mouthed at the stage but the overwhelming sense of fantasy, humour and magic that exists around this play with ethereal music and special effects (think glitter and clever lighting rather than space ships) lends itself to being a show for all ages, where, if your children understand what’s going on, it’s probably your fault. I have no doubt that some parents might be uncomfortable with some of the innuendo but it’s mostly no worse than you’d read in the subtext of any fairy story.
There are clever techniques in the show – the swapping of characters, the growing of the Bride, the music and the rhyme and the script – it’s very accessible and enjoyable. The cast sometimes talk directly to the audience and we are expected to talk back. There were audible gasps from people both enthralled in and impressed with acting, direction and movement. This is quite the collaborative piece – all elements have an equal standing and the show would suffer if any of them were missing.
This isn’t a show about real life. While there are archetypes and recognisable traits in characters, the show isn’t made to be believed – just believable enough. It’s a tale of endurance, of discovery, of magic and of love. A tale of hope and of happiness. It is a creation of beauty, a celebration of imagination and a play in the best sense of the word – the cast seemed to enjoy performing as much as we enjoyed the performances. They were wonderful. I am a Kneehigh fan.
The Wild Bride runs at the Gaiety Theatre tonight at 7.30pm and tomorrow at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets are from €15 and should be bought as soon as possible. You’ll find it on the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival website here.