Theatre Review: BLUEBELLE – The Lowry, Salford

The cast of BLUEBELLE

The cast of BLUEBELLE UK Tour. Photo Credit: Chris Nash

Intimate, contemporary and haunting at times, BLUEBELLE is an imaginative piece of visual storytelling that draws you in with all your senses.

4 out of 5 stars

BLUEBELLE is a folklore-inspired production from leading visual theatre company, Theatre Re. The non-verbal production was developed in collaboration with deaf and Visual Vernacular artists to create a powerful, visual story accessible to d/Deaf audiences without the need for BSL interpretation.

The show opens to a ghost light; six creatures enter, in a chaotic manner, fascinated by the light. The story begins as the creatures remove their beige outer layers to reveal medieval-type attire. Their playful characteristics are interrupted by daunting sequences, and the spirited live music turns dramatic and slow as the cast are thrust into physical theatre style movement.

Although non-verbal, the production does feature vocal expressions. The cast yell, grunt and make nonsensical sentences to express their conversational connections. However, one word that is sensical and features throughout is Bluebelle.

The cast of BLUEBELLE.

The cast of BLUEBELLE UK Tour. Photo Credit: Chris Nash

The short, 65-minute story follows a king and queen of what seems to be a magical land: they are cursed with infertility, but after summoning the Bluebelle fairy, they become parents, but the magic comes at a cost. The villain, who cast the spell upon the king and queen, is brilliant. Their mischievous, wicked ways create a villain that audiences can love to hate, not unlike a pantomime villain.

One stand-out aspect of the show is the live music throughout, played live on stage by the cast members using instruments such as violins, keyboard, and flute. The performers create all sounds within the show live on stage using sound effects and vocal techniques. The villain is played on by its own motif, as dark and foreboding music creates a haunting atmosphere to heighten the evil doings of the character.

Likewise, the Bluebelle fairy has its own melody to reinforce the calm and mystical character. The music throughout really helps the audience’s understanding of the narrative and reminds us how integral music is in establishing emotion.

Although sharing some small traits with the pantomime genre, this production is in no way a pantomime. The story is told in an intimate and contemporary way to unravel a journey into parenthood. Devised from old folktales in addition to interviews with parents and carers gathered by Theatre Re, the production is at times haunting, devastating, and lively. BLUEBELLE is an imaginative visual piece of storytelling that draws you in with all your senses.

The production acts as director Guillaume Pigé’s love letter to theatre. Ending as it began, the ghost light returns to the stage, as if reminding audiences, they just witnessed the magic of theatre.

BLUEBELLE runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 9 February 2022.