The Company Of Wolves / The Bloody Chamber @ C ECA
They had me at the glitter glue. Upon entering the room, we are each given a card, paint and glitter glue, and asked to write and paint ''our heart's desire." A singing minstrel (Elliot Blagden) wanders around, beautifully trilling pastoral ballads. The floor is strewn with picnic hampers, flowers and toys. So far, so twee and folksy... until you spot the Wolf, who starts to creep menacingly around the audience.
Of course, this is an adaptation of Angela Carter's subversive re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, and the cosy setting soon becomes tainted with innocence lost, sexual awakening and ''the beast within men...hairy on the inside.'' In Carter's world, Rosaleen (Bekah Lucking) must not stray from the path (the path representing her virginity) and is warned off men by her wise/creepy grandmother (a wild-eyed Johanna Clarke). Temptation lurks in the handsome form of a stranger (Luke Shepherd), really a wolf in human form, who wagers a bet that he can make it to Rosaleen's Granny' s house before her. The prize is a kiss.
This production suffers slightly from being adapted from Neil Jordan's 1984 film version, as opposed to the original Carter radio play, but by placing more of an emphasis on the wry humour, which is darker in the film, it is rendered more palatable to a younger audience. The interactive aspect is charming too, making for an intimate space. 3 Bugs have a fine young cast and an interesting production with a brave and feisty heroine in Lucking, self-possessed and fully in control.
The Bloody Chamber, meanwhile, is not as suited to a young audience. Angela Carter's take on Bluebeard's Castle is deeply provocative and so unsettling I feel quite vulnerable escaping into the dark Edinburgh streets after the play finishes. A beautiful young blonde pianist (Miranda Horn) marries a rich French marquis (a creepy Jack Fairley) with a castle, gullibly believing he will take care of her. Her mother (Charlie Reilly, who also plays piano beautifully) is less assured, warning her of putting too much stock in marriage.
Words can be prescient and when the sadistic brute leaves after painfully relieving her of her virginity, she discovers a key to a hidden room holding a terrible secret. Sequestered in the castle, the bride is looked after by a blind piano tuner (David Williams), who falls in love with her through hearing her play.
3 Bugs have triumphed here - the cast are all hugely affecting, especially Horn as the bride, who portrays the young woman with just the right amount of naivete, drawing out the bonds between lovers and ultimately mother and daughter. There is no skimping on the violent misogyny at the hand of the Marquis, unctuous but brutal, who regards women as nothing more than adornments - collection pieces to be kept like art - literally, as it transpires.
The tumultuous sound of the sea throughout is an effective device, reinstating the woman's isolation. The crash from the blind man's cane dropping unsettles every time. Wonderfully realised: furious, sexually-charged and atmospheric, as with all the best psychological horror stories - Angela Carter herself would have been proud.