The Wild Bride

After a rather disappointing foray into the West End with their adaptation of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, artistic director Emma Rice and her Cornwall based Kneehigh company are happily back on wickedly enchanting form with a characteristically quirky version of the Grimms’ fairytale The Handless Maiden.

A seemingly harmless pact has disastrous consequences for a young girl when her impoverished father promises the Devil that, in exchange for countless riches, he can take whatever he wants from his backyard– realising too late that that’s where his only valuable possession, his beloved daughter, happens to be at the time.

Repelled by her purity, Stuart McLoughlin’s lanky Devil (who towers over his petrified intended) forces her reluctant father to cover her in dirt, then to chop off her hands. But he still can’t overcome the virtue of her soul, and returns again and again to try and claim his prize.

Rice has drawn talent from the world of dance (Etta Murfitt of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures choreographs now with a gentle synchronicity, then with a wild abandon) and circus (Audrey Brisson, who plays the youngest and most bewildered of three versions of the Bride, has worked with Cirque du Soleil as both performer and vocalist) and the result is beguiling and gruesome, desperately sad and upliftingly joyful.

The cast sings, dances and plays Stu Barker’s bluesy music on a host of musical instruments, whilst Stuart Goodwin is on fine comic form as both the distraught dad and a kilt-clad Scottish prince who rescues the wild and handless girl when she steals pears (lightbulbs!) from his orchard. And a special mention, too, for Patrycja Kujawska who lost her feet in Kneehigh’s recently revived The Red Shoes and returns to the company to lose her hands, but (until the Devil intervenes once again) still finds true love.  

– Louise Kingsley

Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, W6 0QL
0871 221 1726
Tube: Hammersmith
Until: September 24
£12.50- £30