Since the scratch performance of Bluebeard went down a storm during July 2012’s Ferment Fortnight, we have been itching to see the full production of this dark, seductive and disquieting play. Finally Gallivant, the company behind the show, are bringing it back to our Studio this June, and whilst they have been rehearsing in the building we took the opportunity to ask writer Hattie Naylor about the show.
Photograph by Paul Blakemore, Ferment Fortnight July 2012
What first sparked the idea for Bluebeard?
I’ve always wanted to do a ‘Bluebeard’ – the story sits very uncomfortably in the fairytale tradition, as even by fairytale standards it is a particularly gruesome narrative. There are few serial killers in fairytale. I was also inspired by Angela Carters fabulous version in The Bloody Chamber. I have never been convinced by the consensus on the meaning of Bluebeard; which is ‘the price you pay for curiosity’. Fairytales are usually warnings, but the punishment planned for the new wife for unlocking Bluebeards’ secret chamber seems, far too great for the crime even by fairytale standards. I have always felt that there is a greater meaning to the tale.
Why did you feel you had to tell this story?
There has been a consistent disregard for women and feminist values for some time, epitomized in the recent argument with Facebook regarding female imagery, the proliferation of violent pornography, and Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems there has been a monumental shift without anyone of us arguing against it. Women are in a considerably worse position then they were in the nineties, and I would argue, we have been complicit in letting that happen.
What does retelling and rewriting folk tales and fairy tales mean to you?
The joy of starting with a story, particularly an old story, is that you have not only a narrative already set but it also means you can deviate further from the narrative, it can be more expansive then laying out a new story which takes set up and time.
Jung believed in archetypal stories, stories that reach inside us, and have always been and are in the ‘shared consciousness’. Arguably this is why many cultures and civilizations share certain stories. Ivan and the Dogs for example is Jungle book, which is Romulus and Remus. When you tap into an archetypal story – you are using a story pattern that is very durable, solid, and familiar with emotional resonances already established, a huge advantage for a new piece.
Gallivant is a new company, how did you come together?
All five of us: Lee Lyford, Hayley Grindle, Paul Dodgson, Katherine lazare and myself, have been working together on and off for ten years, mostly with The Egg Theatre, and Theatre Royal Bath. I think we have done about ten productions in various combinations. It seemed a natural progression to finally form a company.
How does your relationship as writer work within the company?
It is very much a collaboration between us all. It will begin with the text but there is much working and re-working with us all contributing. We have a shared language and shared vision, which again is why we have formed the company. It is our intention to create a seamless join between text, direction, design, and music/sound; total theatre.
The last time we saw a full production written by you here at Bristol Old Vic was Going Dark, what have you been up to since then?
I have been commissioned to do the first theatre version of Sarah Water’s The Night Watch, (Sarahs’ other work includes Fingersmith, and Tipping the Velvet) for Manchester Royal Exchange , directed by Sarah Frankcom. I have continued my adaptation of The Diaries of Samuel Pepys for Radio 4, The Great Fire of London 1666 was broadcast last month, and I have just delivered my adaptation of The Aeneid, again, for BBC Radio 4. I am also working on The Hayavadana for British Council India and the Southbank with Ragu Dixit Project, and Bellowhead. I am also adapting Moomin Midwinter for the Christmas show for The Egg Theatre Royal Bath, directed by Lee Lyford, and Alison Duddle from Horse and Bamboo Puppet Company. And I am also about to write an original play for Radio 4 about Northern Soul. Ivan and The Dogs is currently touring Brazil and will be in Rio for a month in Summer, it is also about to have its first outing in Buenos Aires.
- A note from Toby Hulse, Co-director of The Last Days of Mankind (bristololdvictheatre.wordpress.com)