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These Bloody Chambers…a review of Angela Carter’s macabre magnificent work



Let’s go to the theatre Annie! Let’s go! Well I was singing this with Mr T as we headed off to the Malthouse theatre to see the last night of ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by the unconquerable Angela Carter- the English Gothic writer, the English realism writer, as she might have suggested. I kept accidentally saying I’m going to see ‘My bloody Chamber’ and this was because I was menstruating at the time, and what more perfect an opportunity to witness the depths of masculine brutality and feminine uprising. The redemptive powers of the maternal force unleashed and not holding back their strength against that nasty Blue-beard. An all-female cast, the main protagonist Alison Whyte also presented herself as Blue-beard via the brilliant application of voice effects. It was almost like the Benne gesserit witches from Dune, modulating their voices. Do you know what I’m referring to. Anyway I was anxious, anxious that my beloved memory of the story might be adapted with panache and accuracy to some degree but also hoping and daring the play to be violent, uncomfortably unsettling the audience. It was. However Miss Bumble, who was the woman sitting behind me ( I have named her this) fell asleep apparently during the show, since she was apologising to her entourage. Miss Bumble also said something before the play started that had me in stitches, the kind that are capable of setting in like a rumbling storm. Here is the gist of the dialogue as I recorded it. Miss Bumble sitting in the seat behind me, had short hair and wore a rather large pearl necklace. Upon seeing a young boy she knew who was about to take his seat next to her, she declared. “OH MY! what are the odds? How wonderful to see you!’ The young boy and his mother also expressed their delight, though maybe not as flamboyantly. ‘What are you doing here?’ she says. The boy begins his puzzlement. ‘haha haha of course’ says Miss Bumble, ah I mean ‘how long are you here for?’ The boy responds to this with a deadpan accuracy, ‘As long as the show’.  Hahahah ahahahha
I could not stop laughing and neither could Mr T.  Thankfully the blood and dripping ceilings and the intense performance of Alison set my giggle fits into rigid anticipation. Despite the character in the book being a young virgin, and Alison Whyte not being a 17 year old, I think she was a perfect choice. In a way I felt ( how very un-post-modern of me) that Angela was working through the actress and seeing her words come alive in the slim vulnerable strong bones and flesh of this actress made me feel the power of this maternal manifesto. The heroine is the mother, who rescues her daughter! Yeah! No more fairytale mothers, or step-mothers who are neglectful or dead ( and so both )  or mothers that are naive or weak! Yeah to the Carter’s envisioning of this mother who is strong and fierce and not to be messed with. I began to cry at the end and thankfully only heard as the lights were raised that Miss Bumble was snoring. Poor Miss Bumble..if only she had not been so tired, if only she had been awake to see and hear such a fantastic tale of maternal love, monsters that can be conquered, young women who become brave like their mothers.


by Angela Carter

Directed by Matthew Lutton
Music by David Chisholm
Performance Text by Van Badham
Set & Costume Design Anna Cordingley
Lighting Design Paul Jackson
Sound Design Jethro Woodward

Cast Shelly LaumanAlison Whyte
Musicians Jacinta Dennett, Jess Fotinos, Yinuo Mu



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2 thoughts on “These Bloody Chambers…a review of Angela Carter’s macabre magnificent work

  1. some lady on said:

    Thankyou for this reminder of Angela’s work! I think I will do a version of her story, “The Company of Wolves” for an evening Doubting Thomas and I are planning for the Brisbane Fringe Festival – in fact, maybe I should talk to you about some other possible readers! I wish you were here to be in it….

    • Oh I wish I could be part of it…even if I could record some howling for you. Do check out the movie version of The Company of Wolves if you haven’t…I think Angela actually had some influence and decision making in the movie. Yes it would be a grand thing to hear more of her work!

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