The Bloody Chamber | Proteus Theatre | Tour | Review

The Bloody Chamber

A Proteus Theatre Production
The Pavilion Theatre, Worthing | Friday June 11 – Saturday June 12 2021

The Bloody Chamber, a brand new adaptation of Angela Carter’s macabre fairy tales, comes to Worthing towards the end of the second week of the long awaited reopening of theatres. How we have welcomed this chance to celebrate by returning to our local venues and enjoying once more the wonderful world of arts and culture on offer in our own communities, and beyond.

This superb production from the Proteus Theatre Company did not disappoint. It is billed as :

‘A dark, rich and heady re-telling of some of the most famous folk and fairy tales in western culture, using circus as a physical vocabulary for Angela Carter’s fantastical stories’

I have to admit that this particular genre of theatre is not something I have experienced to date, and I was not sure what to expect. I was slightly apprehensive about the audience appeal as I thought it might be a somewhat niche offering, and having a feminist theme it potentially might attract a narrower audience. How wrong I was, and although the Pavilion Theatre continues to follow a socially distanced policy for the time being, the auditorium was pretty full and with a mixed adult audience.

When you enter the auditorium the striking set hits you full on in its stunning complexity of bric-a-brac, dark and dimly lit by shaded fringed lamps, reminiscent of a Gothic boudoir. A display board on an easel proclaims this as ‘The House of Love’, and whilst music like that of haunting sea sirens plays, the performers gradually appear on stage dressed in elaborate eclectic costumes ranging from silk kimonos and flapper feathered leotards to gold bodices, dirndl skirts and lurex riding breeches. They proceed to silently interact with one another, gradually drawing the audience into this weird and wonderful other world. This is just the prelude.

What follows is an ingenious spectacle comprising a series of four themed interfacing pieces, seamlessly woven together, all based on ‘the tales our Mothers told us’. Opening with all those warnings little girls are given to avoid ‘the big bad wolf’ in our parks and streets and bars it proceeds to combine them with the dark and sinister fairy tale thread which is innovatively woven throughout. The cast change and evolve through seamless costume and character adaptations, whilst cleverly delivering each piece with (seemingly!) effortless ease. The warnings are delivered by each one of the all female multi-talented ensemble and followed up with the modern woman’s debunking of them all, culminating in a cacophony of protest. It was, quite frankly, electrifying.

Don’t be misled into thinking this production is designed simply to deliver a feminist message, or even a bit ‘right on’. Yes, the message is profound and relevant, however the sheer joy the cast convey with comedic skits and asides, the music veering from the initial haunting theme through to folk and blues meant that at times it was very very funny. There was a lot of laughter. Occasionally I found the spoken words a little difficult to distinguish, and so could not follow all the dialogue, however such was the extraordinary visual interpretation of the themes that this detracted nothing from the performances.

So now we come to the incredible acrobatics, trapeze and breathtaking gymnastic sequences. The use of the simple props in the form of drapes and swings were used to create elaborate and brilliantly performed circus pieces. Truly stunning. I am definitely a convert.

This production of The Bloody Chamber is a diverse mix of vaudeville, burlesque and circus, but essentially it is a celebration of women and their growth into fearlessness. My favourite quote:

‘Never be ashamed of your body, no matter how hairy it is’

These were strong, luminous performances from extraordinarily talented female performers, delivering this brilliant Proteus Theatre Company production. Mary Swan, Artistic Director of The Bloody Chamber, and all the creative crew should be congratulated on a triumph.

Pure Theatre in every sense of the words!

Worthing Theatres and Museum offer the visitor a range of experiences across four different venues in the town, and after their first year of moving into an independent Trust are planning an exciting portfolio of artistic work in live theatre, cinema and museum projects. The Proscenium Stage at The Pavilion Theatre is the envy of many other theatres and an ideal choice to showcase such works as The Bloody Chamber.

Proteus is an award-winning theatre company producing touring shows, projects, residences and workshops, formed in 2009, with its home in Basingstoke. It is an artist-led organisation under the directorship of Mary Swan.

80 minutes, no interval
Age 15+
Touring in 2021/22

Reviewer: Gill Ranson