THE WILD BRIDE amplifies on “The Devil made me do it.”

Stuart Goodwin and Patrycja Kujawska perform at Berkeley Rep in the American premiere of The Wild Bride. Photographer: Steve Tanner. Right: (l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Audrey Brisson, Patrycja Kujawska and Éva Magyar portray the title character in The Wild Bride, the American premiere of a new show from the creators of Brief Encounter.Photo courtesy of

THE WILD BRIDE Adapted and directed by Emma Rice. Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 647-2949 or toll-free at (888) 4-BRT-Tix – or simply click www. December 2 , 2011 – EXTENDED TO JANUARY 22, 2012

THE WILD BRIDE amplifies on “The Devil made me do it.”

Last year England's Kneehigh Theatre brought a brilliant multimedia production of Brief Encounter to the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and then moved on to receive further accolades in New York City. This year it is Berkeley Rep’s turn to host Kneehigh’s latest work The Wild Ride. Great expectations were evident from the buzz in the lobby before curtain time and the audience was not disappointed giving the show a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of the one hour and forty minutes that it graced the stage. The 15 minute intermission gave those in attendance time to digest the technical aspects and story line before being re-seated for the short act two denouement.

For this latest offering, Artistic director Emma Rice has put together an international cast of actors who double as musicians, dancers and acrobats retelling a frightening Brothers Grimm tale that is a collaborative effort of the Cornwall company. The nightmarish twists and turns of the plot are softened by original blues music, jovial demeanor of some of the characters who break the fourth wall addressing the audience, comic timing of athletic routines, musical interludes and semi-intricate technical flourishes. All is not original blues music and they unabashedly repeat passages from the up-tempo “Dem Bones” spiritual when a laugh is needed.

The key descriptive words are fantasy and fantastical. Fancy meeting the Devil (Stuart McLoughlin) at the crossroads of a rundown American Southern rural area where a not too bright, moonshine swigging father (Stuart Goodwin) makes deal with the Devil. You know that that is not a good idea since it inadvertently involves the Devil “owning” the darling young daughter called ‘The Girl’ (Audrey Brisson). The girl is so pure she is unacceptable to the Devil who orders that she be “dirtied up” and when that is not enough he orders her hands be cut off and is sent into the wilds (that part played by Patrycja Kujawska) to fend for herself.

Not very pretty is it? Never fear a happy-go-lucky Prince (Stuart Goodwin again) comes along, falls in love, has “hands” made for her by a blacksmith, become happily married and eventually they become King and Queen.

Happy ending? No way, the Devil will have none of this and in the second act he sends letters in a magical manner from his dominant position in the apple tree to characters on the stage apron. Oh yes, the apple tree constructed of bare wood branches and skewed ladders takes up center stage rear. It is a great place for the Devil to hang out while ordering his dastardly deeds be carried out. Another technical innovation is a pear tree dangling fruit that resemble light bulbs. Director Rice gets a lot of mileage out of that one stage prop.

The second act is the more interesting part of the evening with lights flashing, bombs bursting including a hilarious/raunchy sex scene that even grandmother would like. The actors play all the musical instruments that include banjos, violins, guitars, accordions and bass fiddle. It all is very impressive, with very little dialog to complement the fine singing, dancing and acting.

It is apparent that Kneehigh has usurped the Faust legend and factored in a feminist theme in amongst the admonition that you never make a pact with the Devil, especially if you have a pure young daughter that he covets. One can visualize director Rice giving the clueless father the infamous line by comedian Flip Wilson, “The Devil made me do it!”

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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