Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 13 September 2011

The Wild Bride

Lyric Hammersmith ⋄ 7th - 24th September 2011

Kneehigh rides again.

Tracey Sinclair

In a forest dark and deep. Photo: Steve Tanner

Kneehigh are one of the most exciting theatre companies in the UK at the moment. Their anniversary revival of The Red Shoes was a triumph and while the short-lived The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was thought by many to fall between two stools – too ‘Kneehigh’ for a mainstream West End audience, not ‘Kneehigh enough’ for the non-West End crowd – with The Wild Bride they make a thrilling return to the style they do best.

Director Emma Rice’s adaptation of a Hungarian fairy tale about a girl accidentally sold to the devil keeps many of its East European, mythical origins, but filters the story through the blues of the Depression-era American South, a landscape rich with its own folklore and tales of a devil at every crossroads, ready to tempt the poor and unwary. Throw in Scottish royalty, some Great War imagery and a touch of panto for good measure and you risk an overcooked mess: but it’s to the company’s credit that these come together seamlessly, a rich melding of influences rather than a hodgepodge of thrown together ideas.

The performances are pretty much faultless throughout. Stuart McLoughlin’s devil is a sinewy, sinister delight: all smiles and sharp suit at the start, but disintegrating into shabbiness and filth as his pursuit of the girl continues to frustrate him, and Stuart Goodwin manages the difficult trick of transforming from broad comic foil to believably tragic figure with aplomb. The three female leads, each covering a stage of the girl’s life, excel in different ways. As The Girl, Audrey Brisson is a touchingly vulnerable mix of innocence and nascent sexuality, and for such a petite woman she has a very big voice, her lamenting vocals perfectly suited to Carl Grose and Stu Barker’s haunting music. Magnificent in The Red Shoes, Patrycja Kujawska once again uses her impressive physicality and superbly expressive features to round out a character without speaking a single word, while Eva Magyar brings a quiet dignity to a woman marred by tragedy but made strong by love. The three very distinct figures are still clearly part of one whole, bound together by Etta Murfitt’s clever choreography, which brings echoes of each woman to the movement of the others.

As ever with Kneehigh, the feel of the show is augmented by strong design: Bill Mitchell’s set, a towering mass of twisted branches and ladders, feels almost primal, recalling the dark forests of fairytale, always ready to swallow up the lost and the wandering, complemented by Myriddin Wannell’s deceptively simple but always effective costumes.

Although it doesn’t shy away from horror (and the company’s fascination with mutilated women continues apace) The Wild Bride is a joyful show, and there are plenty of laughs to be had. For all its darkness this is ultimately an uplifting tale of love and survival, and of a woman who refuses to accept the destiny that others have carved out for her, even if that means defying the very devil himself.


Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

The Wild Bride Show Info

Directed by Emma Rice

Cast includes Audrey Brisson, Stuart Goodwin, Patrycja Kujawska, Eva Magyar, Stuart McLoughlin, Ian Ross


Running Time 2 hrs (including interval)



Enter your email address below to get an occasional email with Exeunt updates and featured articles.