The Wild Bride

Adapted by Emma Rice, text and lyrics by Carl Grose, music by Stu Barker
Kneehigh
Northern Stage, Newcastle, and touring
(2011)

The Wild Bride production photo

Nobody makes theatre like Kneehigh. Their inventive combination of original music played onstage, witty lyrics and dialogue, physical theatre, clever design, absorption of theatrical styles from all over the world and sheer joy in what they are doing grabs the audience from the start and sweeps them along so that the time flashes by and, as on the first night of The Wild Bride at Northern Stage, they rise to their feet cheering and applauding wildly.

The Newcastle first night audience had a large proportion of young theatregoers and they - along with those of us who have a few more years behind us - came out buzzing. In fact, I was surrounded by such a group (mainly, I think, 18 year olds) who were almost ecstatic at the end!

The Wild Bride tells a gory Hungarian folktale in which the devil outwits a father, conning him into selling his daughter, and is in turn outwitted - eventually - by that daughter, even though she loses her hands in the process. Cue for a large dose of Grand Guingol, one would have thought, but Kneehigh turn it into a glorious, albeit dark, romp. The loss of the girl's hands, for example, does not lead to blood being spattered all over the stage but instead director and adaptor Emma Rice takes an element from Japanese Kabuki (as she did in The Red Shoes) and and uses red ribbons. The effect is still horrifying but mingled with the horror is a touch of humour, and that combination runs throughout the production.

This distancing effect is continued by the fact that not only do three women play The Girl (Audrey Brisson the young girl who is sold, Patrycja Kujawska the one who marries the Prince, and Éva Magyar the grown woman for whom it all turns out right in the end) but they also accompany each other (in both senses of the word: staying together and accompanying on musical instuments).

The cast - the above three, along with Stuart Goodwin as the Father and the Prince, Stuart McLoughlin as the Devil and musician Ian Ross - are multi-talented and hugely energetic.

Expectations are always high for a Kneehigh show and yet again the company lives up to them.

Philip Fisher reviewed this production at the Lyric Hammersmith

Reviewer: Peter Lathan