The 8th Door and Bluebeard’s Castle review at Theatre Royal, Glasgow – ‘intense and moving’

Gresa Pallaska in The 8th Door at Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
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The 8th Door, Matthew Lenton and Lliam Paterson’s new companion piece to Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, is powerful, intense and moving.

A woman (Gresa Pallaska) and a man (Robert Jack) sit on a bare stage, facing away from the audience and each looking deep into their own camera, their faces projected onto a large screen. In the pit, Sian Edwards pulls and thrusts the orchestra of Scottish Opera through Paterson’s score of deep, interlocking chords as if she were manipulating glaciers. Offstage, six soloists sing of darkness, flames and passion.

Pallaska and Jack seem to share a meal, wine, kisses, a bed and then a dark, morning after fall-out. Their reactions to each other are impeccably timed and the scene is hugely intimate.

Director Matthew Lenton has said he doesn’t want to tell his audience what to think. But in The 8th Door, and the new prologue to Bluebeard’s Castle, he provides eloquent guidance of how to think about Bartok’s opera. His direction of Bluebeard’s Castle is consequently hugely effective as he marries music and action with immense clarity.

Robert Hayward’s introspective, regretful Bluebeard and Karen Cargill’s hopeful, deliberate Judith pace slowly around Kai Fischer’s set, as if they were ghosts already. The elements of the different bloody rooms encroach on their world with ever more direct effect, until the castle walls are rent asunder to reveal Bluebeard’s kingdom, allowing the ghosts of his past to come to life.

Profound new companion piece to Bluebeard's Castle cleverly frames and enhances the original