Review: Bluebeard’s Castle and The 8th Door

Scottish Opera
Theatre Royal, Glasgow – Wed 29 Mar to Sat 1 Apr
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – Wed 5 Apr to Sat 8 Apr

3 Stars (3 / 5)

Bluebeard’s Castle by Béla Bartók

Bluebeard’s castle contains seven doors and behind them lie unknown wonders – but the magnificent jewels of his treasury are stained in blood, and the flowers of his secret garden are tended by no mortal hands. His betrothed, Judith, begs he keep no secrets from her; but the soul of the man lurks behind closed doors and bringing it to light reveals more than she bargained for.

Bartók’s wondrous music dazzles throughout of the piece. Modern yet entirely comprehensible, it varnishes the stage in a thousand different shades of majestic and morose. The vocal performances of Robert Hayward (as Bluebeard) and Karen Cargill (as Judith) cannot be faulted, however, there are some flaws. The plot lacks nuance and the direction a certain vision which, in combination, reduce the story to a repetitive melodrama: Judith begs for a key, Bluebeard refuses her beseeching her to kiss him instead, Judith refuses and insists upon his surrender, Bluebeard relents, Judith is first amazed and then horrified by what she finds. This sequence repeats. There could be more channels in the interaction between the characters.

The use of angles in the surreal set is rather wonderful, and when it all comes apart at a climatic point it shocks the audience into a reverent awe. The set would have benefited from being furnished as a medieval castle rather than a contemporary middle-class living room. There are some touches of brilliance in the design, such as how the treasury was portrayed by glistening sand falling from the ceiling to the floor. The swelling tones of the orchestra led by conductor Sian Edwards bring the most gratifying element: the palpable eeriness of the atmosphere.

The 8th Door by Lliam Paterson and Matthew Lenton

This remarkable introductory piece, a new work by Lliam Paterson and Matthew Lenton charts through the creative use of multimedia the blossoming of love to the fractures in the psyches of the lovers tearing that relationship apart. Close-ups on the face of the performers lend intimate detail to the piece, the creepy music which accompanies creates an atmosphere conducive to full immersion in the piece.