Lady Blue Beard tells us about where she came from and what drew her to the darker side of life where she found her husband. She encounters funny and frightening situations along the way which bring out her true ‘Wild Woman’ nature.
The themes of gender, sexuality and violence are discussed openly by Lady Blue Beard throughout and she appears to relish in the drama rather than shy away from it. This serves to normalise a lot of the content giving the audience permission to drop some of their own judgements.
The mix of physical performance and story-telling is bold but at times doesn’t transition easily. The most effective parts of the show involve Evans taking the time to deliver lines without being distracted by moving props around and other, less-purposeful actions. These actions could be simplified to add more cohesion to the show and contrast between the breath-taking physical energy of the aerial performance.
The design elements work well to highlight the acrobatics. The musical transitions are smooth and effective in accenting the tone changes of the piece. The lighting design is beautiful and compliments the stark set of hanging circus props and Evans’ own physical shapes. The strongest part for me was when Evans winds her body up in red silks (hung from the ceiling), beautifully lit, and describes the “hanging shapes” that she has discovered in Blue Beard’s man cave.
Evans is funny and engaging as a performer. Her only companion is a Teddy-Bear puppet which doesn’t always feel necessary but adds charm and gives a sense of relationship for this woman who we are trying to understand. The costuming is reminiscent of 1950’s hospital garb and makes her adult body appear more child-like. This provides an effective sense of naivety but the clothing gets removed early on in the show until Evans is only in a pair of woollen shorts. This literal nakedness serves to grab our attention and creates a shared sense of vulnerability rather than objectifying Evans herself. Despite this, I never feel that Lady Blue Beard is truly vulnerable. She has a pervading sense of her ‘Wild-Woman’ nature – confident and fierce- but doesn’t appear to change through her ordeals. I am unsure whether this is a character choice and perhaps her complexities could be explored more.
The Blue-Bearded Lady could benefit from a reduction in verbal story-telling, particularly at the beginning of the show, where the physical awkwardness of undressing whilst wearing stilts makes us take longer to engage already. However, when Evans delivers her empowering conclusion - “I am Lady Bluebeard” – the audience is definitely listening. She ties up the story nicely and her intention of highlighting the wildness in the ‘Everywoman’ sits well with me. Although the presentation may challenge some people I think the themes would resonate with most. Evans continues to surprise throughout The Blue-bearded Lady and creates a well-formed tale of internal discovery. I enjoyed the show for its bravery and beauty; if you have a feminist bent, an interest in aerial performance or want to be challenged, I would recommend this show to you.
The Blue-Bearded Lady has been performed internationally and is on at Bats Theatre, from March 30 - April 2 at 7pm.