Review: These Bloody Chambers

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Beautifully executed, These Bloody Chambers was a masterpiece worthy of the Assembly Rooms. The show is written by Em Oliver (a third-year student from Hilde Bede), who was inspired by Angela Carter’s novelette The Bloody Chamber. However, unlike Carter, Oliver transports us to a place that exists beyond time which permits the main message of the show to be elucidated in a way which plays on the audience’s habitus.

While both the initial story and the play are founded on feminism and the treatment of women in destructive relationships with men, Oliver takes it one step further by focusing their play on the intersectionalities of feminism with queerness and being a woman of colour. It is through these intersectionalities that Oliver’s show stands unique, for the genre of the show as a macabre soft horror is rarely filled with the narrative of queer women of colour.

Oliver takes it one step further by focusing their play on the intersectionalities of feminism with queerness and being a woman of colour

’s directorial team perfectly executed the story. The use of the Assembly Rooms space was unlike anything I had ever seen before, truly destroying the setting of reality to transport the audience into the woods. Throughout the show, I felt as if I was in attendance as a bird or spirit who watched as the heroines struggled with themselves and each other on a cold night.

The cast’s performances were beyond beautiful. To try to pull out any single one would be to do them all a great injustice. From the heroines, Nadya, Sumaya, and Alice — played by Julia Bartholomeusz, Alexa Thanni, and respectively — to the ‘boy’ played by to all those in the ensemble, and Layla Nabi: the teamwork and connection between them all could be felt so deeply that there was a realness in their actions which made one forget that they were not telling their own stories. In every monologue and tale, I sat floored and a little sad. The amount of detail of the gory pasts seemed too real to have ever been imagined.

Before the show began, I was enthralled by the beauty of the set design, made by Carrie Cheung, which truly transported the audience to a forest landscape that blurs the boundaries of the real world and the one beyond. The usage of white in both the set design and character costumes additionally adds to the story both in the connection of the colour white to purity, signifying the characters’ underlying girlhood. It juxtaposes the colours of the lights which create a visual representation of how all the main characters are victims of man-made violence and had their purity stripped from them unwillingly.

Most of all, the use of music in this show was beyond outstanding. Composed by Angelica Shortanova, it set the perfect mood that curated the entire narrative of the show

This was further emphasised by the use of performance dance by the ensemble, who worked as abstract moving set pieces and told their stories as the actresses narrated their truths. Most of all, the use of music in this show was beyond outstanding. Composed by Angelica Shortanova, it set the perfect mood that curated the entire narrative of the show.

While the Durham production is over, the beauty of this outstanding Sightline Productions show must be recorded. A standing ovation must be made for both the cast and production team who put together, what was in my opinion, the best dramatic play I had seen in my four years at Durham. And if you missed it, fear not, according to their Instagram. 

Image credit: Sightline Theatre Company

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