Review: Glass.Kill.Bluebeard.Imp, Caryl Churchill, The Royal Court By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In true Caryl Churchill style, we are introduced to fine writing, which is of a naturalistic ilk yet verges on the unusual, hilarious and subtle in all these attributes.

Seemingly with no other interlink that the same actors, each play is different from one another, with a different concept, it Is a true triumph and evidence of a brilliant playwright that she can make such interesting plays, which last for not long at all.

Glass – Is the story about a girl made of glass, her fragility both physically and emotionally. It is comical, heart-breaking and to a degree, relatable about young love. While made of glass, we think that she is the real person who needs care, but when she meets someone going through a lot worse, it puts in real perspective our own lives and how there are always someone going through worse. A simple staging, the 4 characters are suspended high, in amongst darkness, precariously. And this is all it needs – simplicity and for us to listen to the writing.

Kill – A story about Gods and Murders. Again, a simplistic stage, our God is upon a suspended cloud, smoke emanating across the stage, while the God acts very much unlike a God – smoking and calling out all religious beliefs. He is funny and the writing draws upon our World and beliefs with satire. Opposite to him is a little boy, who integrates the God’s storytelling with comments, increasing in anger, and this all builds to a crescendo. Feeling almost unfinished, but in this respect very well done. We end shocked, and confused but in a good theatrical way.

Bluebeard’s Friends – Easily one of my favourite of the four. Four friends of Bluebeard sit around, slowly getting drunk, as they talk about Bluebeard and his indiscretions, his crimes and how they felt this was hidden. In true Royal Court style, the stage is simplistic – a dinner party, but soon hilarity ensues with the appearance of Bluebeard’s wives bloodied dresses. It’s almost horror-comedy, and the juxtaposition between the normal conversation, to the actual stories of Bluebeard and the appearance of the dresses is something unusual and almost apocalyptic.

Imp – The longest of the four plays. Imp could have been a play in itself. While a great production, it felt a little less impactful as the others. Perhaps this was more theatrically than the writing but none the less, an engaging piece. We meet two middle aged cousins who live together after respective partners either die or divorce them. Their removed niece comes to visit from Dublin, making a life for herself, while being entwined with another guest of theirs who is down on his luck. This is seemingly standard play, with comedy, and drawing upon mental and physical health. This is brought in subtly but very well and relatable. The imp in the bottle however brings the unusual which can be often found in Churchill’s plays. The idea of belief, of whether believing in something enough makes it real, and we see them contemplate this – becoming frightened if it is, scoffing if it isn’t, grieving when it may be lost. And soon we begin to contemplate its reality. What if it is real? We engage so much in how the actors play their feelings.

Glass.Kill.Bluebeard.Imp is a series of brilliant plays. It’s hard to really come away without inspiration and astonishment at Churchill’s writing and combination with The Royal Court – it is very much a match made in heaven.

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