Review: The Wild Bride

05:40, Feb 25 2012
The Wilde Bride
WILD BRIDES: Cornwall-based Theatre Company Kneehigh.

The Wild Bride
Wellington Opera House, February 24

If you're acquainted with the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales, you know many of them are not for the faint-hearted.

Cornwall-based Theatre Company Kneehigh's The Wild Bride is a musical take on an old tale that takes the audience into a magical world.

The storytelling is captivating, surprising, funny and full of charming oddities.

The story, based on the Grimms' The Girl Without Hands, is not a happy one: A loving but constantly tipsy father makes a deal with the devil. (What could go wrong, right?)

While thinking that he's just swapping the apple tree in the backyard for great wealth, he actually flogs off his daughter who is playing there to Satan himself.

The devil however is annoyed with the cleanliness of the child's hands so he forces the father to hack them off.

Betrayed by her witless father and rejecting the Devil, she flees into the woods and meets her prince. Fortune changes again as a war starts, and the heroine is left alone in the wilderness to embark on an a voyage of discovery, healing and hope.

Through the three acts the girl changes into a women and then a mother - each stage in her life played by a different actress - with all them as shadow of the future and the past always on stage.

It takes until the last act before the hard-done-by girl finds a voice. For the majority of the play she expresses herself just through mimic and dance.

The story is pretty dark and grim, but director Emma Rice has set the tale into an America of the 30s where the devil sings a bluesy tune (and also turns his hand to playing the guitar, banjo, drums and double bass).

The mix of live blues music and devilish humour made for many laughs in the packed Opera House.

A delight to watch is actress Audrey Brisson, who starts the evening as the wide-eyed, innocent child that is sold to the devil and continues to impress with her Cirque de Soleil schooled vocal range, setting the atmosphere with her singing throughout the play.

The other stand-out is Stuart McLoughlin as the Devil - featuring as main character, raconteur and musician.  

With only five actors and one musician, the cast is small and gives each the chance to show off their multiple talents. They swap instruments, they sing, they dance and most of all, they entertain.

The Wild Bride is theatre that's neither highbrow nor too simple - it's a visual and sensual ride that leaves the audience loping out of the theatre.

The Wild Bride,  runs from February 24-27 at Wellington Opera House as part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival.