The main character in Hattie Naylor’s forceful, often shocking monologue slinks on stage slowly, without you completely noticing, until suddenly he’s there, sat in a leather backed chair, wearing a glinting smile and pinstriped suit and there’s nothing you can do but listen.
With a relaxed charm, this wolf in flashy businessmen’s clothing tells us of his sordid, murderous, sadomasochistic encounters with women. His delivery distances him from his terrible deeds. This is one truly disarming character.
Naylor’s protagonist is a mythical figure. Bluebeard is the man who, in French folktales, murdered his wives horribly in a torture chamber. Paul Mundell plays a modern version of this man who exerts an almost hypnotic power over his victims, and also us. It’s a superb performance and Endell’s energy is as taut as a tightrope all the way through.
Naylor has sex, power and violence all mixed up as one. Bluebeard’s victims are women of different ages and background, but to begin with, each willingly submits to his perversions. Although he is quite clearly the baddie, we’re also made aware that by agreeing to his every demand, the women have dabbled with the devil.
To accompany Lee Lyford’s bare, simple production there’s a soundtrack of northern soul to further disconcert us. The soft, passionate songs jar terribly with Bluebeard’s descriptions. With nothing on the stage but a chair and some hanging strip lights, Lyford pushes us into focusing only on the dark character.
It’s a deeply unsettling script, but for all its intensity, there’s something missing. As it is, the play really just re-jigs an old tale we’ve heard before. There’s no palpable reflection of our society in what happens. It’s more a portrait of a warped individual.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell