Review: Dark and disturbing one-man show at Warwick Arts Centre

Paul Mundell in Bluebeard at Warwick Arts Centre.Paul Mundell in Bluebeard at Warwick Arts Centre.
Paul Mundell in Bluebeard at Warwick Arts Centre.
Bluebeard by Hattie Naylor, Warwick Arts Centre. On until tonight (March 7). Box office: 024 7652 4524.

Victims often return to their abusers; which is not the same thing as saying – as abusers generally do – that like to be abused. Bluebeard explores the difficult, dangerous territory that is sexual violence towards women, and how it has become so commonplace that its imagery is considered normal.

Bluebeard is a one-man show that packs a dark and disturbing punch. Paul Mundell gives a masterful performance as the eponymous villain, who has taken many disguises in his long career.

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Here he is Jim, the owner of a Northern Soul nightclub. In exact, lascivious detail he describes his conquests: first Susan, then Annabel, and finally Trudy – what they did, how they did it: what he did to them. Though monstrous, he is utterly plausible. He ‘knows’ women, ‘knows’ what they like, what they expect. A little violence is all part of the game, and both parties seem to enoy it. Only with Jim, once they start to get too close to him, a little turns into a lot and we have another crime statistic.

I’ve seen some scary villains on stage, but Jim is something else. He presence is like that of a caged animal and I found myself hoping the fourth wall would not break down; that he would stay just that side of the lights.

Jim gets his come-uppance in the end, but don’t feel too reassured about that. He’s not gone away. The thing about psychopaths is that they look ordinary. And Jim is very ordinary indeed.

Nick Le Mesurier