Content Warning: Discussion of Sexual Violence
A suspicious reluctant Bride and a suspect hedonistic Groom meet for the first time – on their wedding day, of course. Blueballs is a bite-sized thriller turned psychological horror attacking modern perceptions surrounding consent and violence. As the Groom tries to schmooze and seduce his fourth bride in as many years, it becomes clear that something more sinister is afoot between the pair, and their betrothal may soon turn to betrayal. With gloomy verve and a gloriously evident sense of style, Iris Supple-Still’s expeditious and intelligent script marries with delightfully discordant performances to offer something entirely unflinching and unnerving. A powerful social undertone surrounding sexual violence and consent helps give this show a neat edge.
Retelling the story of Bluebeard with a sense of modern panache, Blueballs sees the wealthy and precocious alcoholic Groom entranced with his new wife amidst their wholly unorthodox first dance to a jazz number. Flipping over one another and snapping clicks, it all feels a little divine, if somewhat uneasy. The two rendezvous in their hotel room, finally alone for the first time, to get to know one another. The alcoholic, bombastic Groom makes the Bride squirm with his reluctance to talk about his past lives, his disdain for his family, his constant drinking. With reticence and resolve, she appears entirely dead behind the eyes. Meanwhile, the Groom appears to be full of endless intrigue about his new wife – could she be his salvation? For a moment, it actually seems like things might work out for this unlikely couple, when secrets from their past start to bubble to the surface.
The performances are resolute and utterly entrancing. They manage to uphold a real unsure sense amongst the audience as to where all of this is going and how it will end. The Groom’s sly and toxically masculine nature fletches out a complicated history and later reveals a deeply disturbed individual. The veneer is wafer thin with the Groom – we see him play up to every stereotype and yet you hope for both their sakes that he isn’t as utterly terrible as he appears. The Bride, with her detached expression and voracious disinterest in the man she has married, inflicts wounds on his ego with her every word. Tension rises toward an inevitable moment of violence which is wonderfully formed and stunning to watch. The pair roll around with an almost clownlike physicality, just as choreographed as their bizarre first dance. I only with that the final moment had been a little more of a cut-and-dry end rather than a fade to black.
Drenched in a rich texture of sarcasm, irony, and bleeding darkness, this is a gorgeous thing to watch unfold, The plot is extremely neat and the script doesn’t waste a minute. Rich in subtext, every line feels like the pair are flinging a tennis ball of egoism back and forth between each other. We don’t get to learn a terrible amount about either character, but that’s kind of the point, and leads to a stunningly poignant reveal at the end. Those who know the story of Bluebeard are not in for a surprise, yet the piece sings in a sense of gloomy originality. Describing itself as a “40 minute Tequila shot of theatre” – the piece gets straight to the point and delivers a gut-wrenching ending that stings as you walk out into the light.
There are a few plot holes and slight misgivings here and there – all I’ll say without ruining it is that someone is guilty of a crime, and the other knows about it, but we never find out how they know, and why they didn’t contact the police if that is the case. But in the show’s defence, there appear to be unseen authoritarian patriarchal power structures which have compelled both these people together, which might explain why nothing was done about it. There are places where the performance could be tightened up here and there, and the Groom’s bizarre spouts of pain and sudden recoveries don’t feel the most authentic at all times. These are speckles of blight on an utterly gorgeous piece however.
The show handles themes of consent and sexual violence extremely well, and despite its stylistic efforts it never feels without weight or substance. It depicts a grotesque world of systemically supported domestic and sexual violence that feels exceptionally relevant and pertinent. The show focuses on expressing – showing rather than telling – on the issue, and it leaves you with something important to go away thinking about.
Smart, wry, and drenched in a ruinously dark style – this thriller delivers a brooding sense of terror in an incredibly short period of time.
Recommended Drink: I’ll follow the team behind this’ advice and take a shot of Tequila – quick, sharp, and leaves you questioning a lot.
Catch Blueballs at TheSpaceTriplex – Studio at 12:45 until August 26th. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.