Laurie Atkinson - Dom Post
It really isn't a good idea to make a bargain with the Devil, who'll upset the apple cart given half a chance, as you'll find out if you see the wondrous The Wild Bride, which had the audience cheering at the curtain call last night.
This little-known Grimm Brothers story about a poor farmer tempted by the Devil into selling his backyard (and, unknowingly, his daughter) for some good clothes has been transferred from darkest Hungary to the US during the Depression. The music ranges from bluegrass to Dem Bones (a dark, captivating number) to Gypsy violin.
One has to allow for theatrical licence as the heroic prince, who falls in love with the daughter spurned by the Devil because she is too pure, is not Amercian but a comic twit (he comes right) who regularly counts the pears on his tree every morning and evening.
It could have been a mess but it is held together by the drive to tell a story with a simple moral (endurance, hope and love) with an inventiveness that uses just about every visual, mimetic, aural and lighting trick available.
There are moments of beauty as when the pear tree feeds the starving bride in the wilderness. There are moments of tense comedy and drama as the Devil intercepts letters. And there are moments of cruelty and violence and thunderclaps and lightening that give the audience a jolt.
The five superb actors and their supporting musician play a variety of instruments, sing magnificently, dance and fight athletically, operate three puppets, and move from pantomime to lyricism and simplicity (the three actors who play the wild bride) with such assurance that we are taken on a truly remarkable theatrical journey.
The Wild Bride The Opera House, till Monday