You’re special. You are. You’re talented. You deserve more, so much more, and you know it. You do know it. You believe it. You believe in yourself, in your work, in your art. Or do you? Because if you’re really so special, so talented, and you deserve so much more, why are you stuck in a shitty job taking photos of kids while their dads make creepy remarks at you? Why are you considering dragging yourself out on a wet and windy night to some random gallery party with a vacuous man, just to get as many free drinks as you can?
And then you meet your hero. The man whose photography inspired you to pick up a camera. The man who captures a thousand perfect images with his lens (and if an awful lot of those images seem to be of naked women… well, what of it? It’s hardly unusual). And he gets you. He tells you that you are all those things you want to be. And best of all, you are different. You are special. You are not like all those boring, shallow, shadow people: you are more. And he can help you fulfil all your glorious potential – he can get you into the right places, introduce you to the right people. With his power and patronage at your back, you can have everything that you know that you deserve. Baby, you are going to be a star. Oh, but here’s the price…
Too much, is it? You don’t want to pay it? Well, maybe you’re not so special. Maybe you just haven’t got what it takes. Maybe – whisper it – you’re just ordinary, after all.
Does the price still seem too high?
Founded in 2014, Camisado Club is a Newcastle-based company that specialises in collaboratively created ensemble pieces. Their Bluebeard is a garish and glitter-soaked morality tale, a post-MeToo retelling of the classic tale, dissected by a scalpel-sharp script and reclaimed with a feminist gaze. Ella (a sympathetic and ultimately steely Lauren Hurwood) is a jobbing photographer. Frustrated by her stalled career and the fact that her well-meaning parents want her to get a husband and a ‘proper job’, she’s tempted to turn down the invitation to a gallery opening by her laddish on-off sort-of-boyfriend (Hannah Goudie-Hunter, an impish delight in the role), until she discovers it’s a show by her hero, Richard (a quietly compelling Robert Nicholson). And when she meets said hero and he seems to like her – more, to understand her – she is quickly drawn into his world, only to discover the entry fee to his gilded life is dangerously high.
Devised by the company, sharply written by Samantha O’Rourke and directed with flair by Jack Cooper, this is a smart, stylish production (Natalie Johnson’s versatile set does incredible work in the small studio space of Alphabetti) that at times reads like a heightened fever dream, disorienting and disturbing. It recognises the seductive charisma of men like Richard, and the patriarchal power structures that allow them to abuse it, to prey on the ambitions of women made vulnerable by this inequality of status. Women who are still too often judged on their looks and valued for their youth, and too easily discarded in favour of a newer model (Jessica Dawson is brilliantly bitter as Richard’s ex, a model who is ‘past it’ at 30, and is torn between wanting to hang onto her lover’s attentions and wanting to save his newest prey from her fate). It also casts a gimlet eye over class and wealth and the commercialism of art – Ella bemoans the fact that the gallery party is full of rich bankers with no interest in the actual photography, when it should be open to people like her, and Caroline Liversidge’s scene-stealing cleaner / housekeeper is scathing about the lax habits of the rich.
Filled with visual inventiveness, dark but also raucously funny, the piece crams an awful lot into a slick, fast-moving hour, and the result is a show that is in turns dazzling and unsettling, but – as Ella seizes control of her own fate – ultimately deeply satisfying. One not to be missed by a young company of genuine promise.
Bluebeard runs at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle until 12th October. More info here.