facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Following official government advice theatres are currently closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus. For more information on cancelled performances click here.

The Wild Bride

First Published 13 September 2011, Last Updated 31 January 2012

Imagine a pantomime where the fairy tale has not been Disney-fied, where the gore and pain is still as raw as a bleeding steak, but which still relishes theatricality and playing with the audience.

You are someway close to Kneehigh theatre’s The Wild Bride.

Based on old folk tale The Handless Maiden, it tells of a misguided father who inadvertently sells his daughter to the devil. Careless really, but the devil’s a tricky so and so. Old Satan, however, doesn’t realise exactly how pure the young maiden is, tries his best to introduce filth into her life – to the extent that Daddy is forced to take an axe to her tear-purified hands – but can’t soil her enough to claim her as his. Instead, the fingerless female escapes into the woods and onto further adventures while the devil watches on waiting for her to fall.

Music and dance flows through the production like a river through the bayou where it may or may not be set. The blues-influenced tunes certainly hint at that swampy setting, but there is an Irish father, a Scottish prince and an English queen. Yes, it’s set everywhere and nowhere, like all good fairy tales.

As any Kneehigh veteran would expect, the Cornish theatre company attack the story with rampant theatricality. The three ages of the title character are simultaneously on stage, echoes of her past and future self. There’s paint, mud, glowing pears and a chatty portrait. It’s full of witty invention that makes you smile without imposing itself on the story; aiding rather than casting a shadow.

Kneehigh regular Stuart McLoughlin makes a manic devil, zombie-like in his appearance; his natural gangliness adding to the otherworldly feel. If there is any thought that fairy tales are light and fun – they’re not, they’re Grimm – this is dispelled when he tries to claim Audrey Brisson’s girl as his own in a disturbing scene where she is quietly, painfully petrified and he borders on the paedophilic. Stuart Goodwin brings a natural endearing bonhomie to both the father and the prince.

To single anyone out, though, is to be unfair to the completeness of the piece. Carl Grose’s rhyming text is witty and perfect for the nature of the tale without ever feeling forced. Bill Mitchell’s set, with its imposing tower of ladders and branches, evokes the nightmarish wild wood. Stu Barker’s music, moving from blues to tribal and back again, sets the changing tone of the story, and director Emma Rice draws it all together into one dark, funny, bloody, playful, horrific, haunting tale of female fairy tale survival. And you all know how all good fairy tales end.



Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.