Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Theater: "Bluebeard's Dollhouse"

Charles Perrault's murderous fairy tale "Bluebeard" merges with Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" in this haunting, immersive promenade-style theatrical event by Combustible Company. Marriage, violence and the power of secrets converge as this production winds through the unique and intimate spaces of the Hill House. A murder-mystery unfolds using theater, dance, puppetry and live music, taking the audience on a seductive journey through the suffocating marriage of Torvald and Nora, underscored by the brutality of Bluebeard's murderous compulsion.
Well this sounds... disturbing-yet-amazing. Bluebeard's Dollhouse, is a new take on the never-nice Bluebeard tale and sounds quite intriguing. With curiosity as one of the key (heh) themes in the tale, it's surprising we don't see more murder-mystery or procedural framing for retelling this story. And a bonus? They're partnering with the Minnesota Historical Society to give you that extra haunted (doll) house feeling, using three of the available floors of the Hill House Mansion to stage the performances. Sounds like an immersive experience.

Combustible Company seem to have taken this show beyond a simple retelling and are looking at the tale a little deeper, and with an unusual slant. There's an interesting interview you can read HERE with the creators about how they came to this "mash-up", and how they will be using the various rooms, moving the audience around from time to time I'm excerpting some tale pertinent bits below:
Erik:'s not as crazy as it may seem. Both stories are captivity tales in their own ways and both contain a measure of violence. In one story it’s physical and in the other it’s emotional. Both contain secrets that threaten to destroy the heroine. Kym: As I was researching the Bluebeard fairy tale, I was struck by the power that marriage had over a young woman’s life – how Bluebeard’s bride was essentially held captive as wife, even as his property – and that the only real agency she had was to explore forbidden knowledge. This reminded me a lot of Nora in Ibsen’s play: she is defined by the institution of marriage, infantilized by her husband, and she harbors a secret that reveals both Torvald’s and her own true natures. Bluebeard, Torvald, and Nora are each “destroyed” by the revelation of their secrets, and yet, especially for Nora, this shattering of the mask is the promise of freedom.
Erik: Setting Bluebeard’s Dollhouse in essentially a 19th-century castle reinforces the intersection of the stories we’re weaving together and creates an atmosphere that’s simultaneously grandiose and intimate.
What specific types of puppets are you using in this show?Erik: We have a number of dolls, both found and constructed, that will be puppeted by actors themselves, but will also be manipulated either directly or indirectly by other actors.
Kym: We will [also] be animating found objects: suitcases, knives, keys, mannequins, dolls. Everything is alive in this fairytale world. In the Bluebeard story, even the key is alive – it bleeds, telling Bluebeard of his wife’s transgression. (You can read the whole interview HERE.)

Digging for a little more information on the use of the Bluebeard tale, we found this "Support Bluebeard's Dollhouse" page, which explains a little more.
By merging Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Perrault’s Bluebeard we create a new story, a “captivity tale” about the fight for personal emergence and acceptance that many face in our society. The struggle to “become human” and the emotional and physical violence that occurs when our humanity is limited by social constructs resonates most powerfully. In both stories the main characters struggle to be known for all that they are and hope for the redeeming power of love. They seek to escape the confines of society and reveal the “secrets” that contain the fullness of their humanity. In this marriage of stories both Nora and Torvald/Bluebeard act upon each other as catalysts for change, embodying our own need to confront terrifying truths locked away within ourselves and venture beyond the stultifying comfort of the Dollhouse into dynamic and transformative interaction with our world. They must transcend old notions of love and the rituals that anchor the status quo in their lives and risk moving into new definitions of themselves.

Perhaps the most informative of all, is this video, in which the creators explain their concept and "set the stage", literally:
This sounds like it's going to either be an amazing and unforgettable experience, or be so continuously bizarre for the audience the experience will head quickly into sensory overload. It makes us wish we had the choice to go.

It sounds perfect for some fairy tale themed Halloween entertainment!

Bluebeard's Dollhouse premieres on Friday September 30th 2016, with additional performances on October 1st, October 6th-8th and October 14 & 15. Each performance day has two times to choose from.

1 comment:

  1. This does look amazing! Mashing up Bluebeard with the Dollhouse seems like such an obvious idea I'm surprised it hasn't already been thought of! Hmm 6 hour drive from Chicago to St. Paul...