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The Blue-Bearded Lady, a solo performance by Pipi-Ayesha Evans, hit BATS theatre in March. It is based on the French folktale Blue Beard, a story about a powerful Lord who makes a nasty habit of killing his wives. Evans and her creative team present a subversive theatrical take on a dark, sadistic story. In this version, we follow a woman’s experience of childhood, power, lust, and horror—culminating in an erotic circus spectacle.
Lady Blue-Beard (Evans) welcomes the audience into the dome, while perched high on an aerial hoop, which she dangles and swoops on throughout the show. As she darts from silk tissue to rope and back to hoop, her strange and unsettling story unfolds. Her accompanying characters are symbolically manifested in a nearly decapitated teddy bear, which represents her alter ego, secretive (as well as confident and callous) husband, Blue. She leads a curiously unconventional life; not wanting the “white picket fence” like the rest of her family. This became increasingly clear as her seductive, mysterious characterisation shifted from playful princess, to taunting stripper, to feral wolf through the show.
The opening scene is particularly enchanting. Evans wears a white linen skirt stretching from her waist all the way to the ground, and underneath a pair of monstrous stilt legs. Sitting in her hoop, slowly turning at an impressive height, Evans hums the tune to Billy Joel’s “White Wedding”, and occasionally glances at the audience through the reflection of her hand mirror, with a mischievous, seductive smile. She evokes an eerie atmosphere in this first scene, which intrigued the audience from the start.
In a particularly climactic moment, Lady Blue-Beard reveals to us her husband’s deepest and darkest secret—a sex chamber filled with blood and carcasses. This content alienates the audience, creating unease and confusion. Yet she attempts to lure us back in by moving around the silk tissue tantalizingly. Evans is not your typical graceful, feminine dancer. Instead, she gradually becomes animalistic and sprightly, which is fitting of the ghoulish tale. In the opening scene we see her smear a blue paint beard across her jaw, which enhances her aggressive facial expressions, erratic movements, and impressive circus ability. We see flinging limbs, crawling and snarling, amalgamating in a crescendo of a jarring howl at the moon on the projector.
The aerial dance and athleticism that Evans brought to the stage were highlights of the show. She performed on the circus apparatus with confidence and ease. Her movement and agility accentuated the spectacle and originality of a circus fairytale. However, without the use of aerial theatricality, Evan’s storytelling techniques and narrative qualities are analogous to thin ice; the audience doesn’t feel very comfortable or safe during her more erotic moments, and some of the dramaturgical elements (such as the teddy bear’s interchanging role) are superfluous to the performance.
Evans has created something truly unique with The Blue-Bearded Lady. Although the moments of explicit and erotic performance were dubious theatrically, her circus performance saved the show in it’s beautiful aesthetic, and bravery. Evans offers an out-of-the-box dynamic solo piece, adding an eclectic zing to BATS’ calendar this year.
What: Jekyll and Hyde
Who: Slightly Isolated Dog (theatre company), directed by Leo Gene Peters.
Where: Circa Theatre
When: March 19, to April 16.
How: Book tickets online at www.circa.co.nz, or call 04 801 7992
Filled with jokes, improvisation, and a group of sexy and talented actors. Jump along to Circa this month to find out what Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde get up to in this entertaining and interactive piece of theatre.