the bloody countess

Countess Erzsébet Báthory, considered the most prolific female serial killer in history, murdered 650 young women over the sixteenth century. Fourth Monkey presents a Grimm’s tales inspired retelling of her life in The Bloody Countess. Sixteenth century Hungary is married with mythology to create a visually stunning folk tale. Costume is exquisite, versatile and creating a flow through the play. With a large ensemble cast and a story spanning a lifetime, The Bloody Countess is epic in its proportions.

A tiled, bloodied floor furnished with a bathtub on casters forms the setting of Báthory’s gynaeceum. As the show begins, a swarm of people bursts onto the stage in a polished explosion of life, surrounding Báthory, who convulses as they scream their accusations. Murder. Witchcraft. Here, I should note that Báthory is mostly associated with vampirism rather than witchcraft; this production takes a slightly different approach. The scene clears smoothly and we’re left with a delicate young woman; a different actress playing the youngest stage in the Countess’s life. There are three actresses in total playing Báthory, each bringing with them a different facet of the woman’s character, illustrating her decline from terrified, pregnant thirteen year old to sadistic killer.

Director Tom Espiner has created a slick piece of theatre, fast paced and containing some incredibly powerful tableaux. However, the audience has not been considered effectively enough and sightlines are a major issue. There are too many occasions in which cast members are standing in front of audience members, blocking important scenes from view. It’s also often taken for granted that we know who characters are without explanation and never explained why Báthory grew so cruel. That said, The Bloody Countess is a bloody theatrical spectacle, and pretty bloody good.

The Bloody Countess is playing at SpaceTriplex (Venue 38) until 29 August (no performances on 16 or 23) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.