Arts Review: Bluebeard’s Castle and The 8th Door

Dir. Matthew Lenton, Theatre Royal, 28th March – 1st April

Scottish Opera has joined forces with theatre company Vanishing Point for a double bill including The 8th Door, a completely new work by Lliam Paterson and Matthew Lenton written especially for this occasion, and Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The 8th Door is a combination of visual theatre and opera. The minimalist setting includes two chairs and coffee tables, focusing my gaze entirely on the two people sitting with their back towards the audience. Both the man and the woman are looking at a camera projecting their faces on the screen in the background. Without any audible dialogue, their faces portray the rise and fall of a relationship. The singers and the musicians are all invisible in the pit, yet their presence is powerful as they describe the emotions of the actors on stage. The opera and the theatre being intertwined proves that there is still space for opera to develop, and that some of it may reach new audiences who are not necessarily into crinolines and 18th century perukes.

Bluebeard’s Caste is not a grand-scale opera with lavish scenery either. Just as The 8th Door, it is an intimate account of two people’s relationship. It tells a story of a wife, Judith, trying to convince her husband Bluebeard to open the doors to brighten his castle, discovering his dark secrets along the way. Set in what could be a modern-day study, it reminds of a chamber play, but then surprises with effects such as flowers exiting from a drawers, symbolizing the opening of the door to the garden. Each door symbolizes a secret. While at some points the constant appearance of blood whenever a door is opened can become visually boring and threatens to take away from the rising tension, the singers Robert Hayward and Karen Cargill masterfully capture the change in emotions and their intensity.

Finally, The 8th Door and Bluebeard’s Castle are intimate performances, that take us away from the golden balconies of Theatre Royal into the personal space of two couples whose relationships are falling apart regardless of love, making it all the more heartbreaking.

[Žad Novak]

Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

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