Forget Glee. Harmony singing is dangerous. It can kill. We know about its power, and its versatility. And now we are going deep into the forbidden room of Bluebeard’s castle to reveal our bloody tale. Nobody would expect such a behaviour from a Ruby Doll, would they?
Cabaret is the perfect form for our exploration of female transgression and Bluebeard; the perfect story. At the very heart of cabaret is a mischievous delight in breaking the rules. Cabaret draws on music, satire, comedy and storytelling, and whether the tales are borrowed or original, they are always personal. True to our genre, our starting point was music. We wanted to explore themes of sexuality, power and control but before we had even decided on the story we were going to tell, we sought out the music that expressed these themes. From that rich seam, Bluebeard began to manifest.
It’s the first time we have worked in this way. But as musicians and storytellers, the emotional heart of the piece lives in the music we make and the stories it inspires. We wanted to invent and re-invent Bluebeard through our arrangements and compositions and make the music work, not simply as a traditional musical might, where the character sings their thought process or furthers the plot, but to use our voices to add an extra emotional impact; to provide the context, reveal the story and reveal ourselves. Our singing is woven through the show, creating musical themes that repeat and grow in meaning. And when we sing, we really mean it.
Our own collaboration as a cabaret ensemble and group of four female artists is an act of patriarchal resistance in itself. In creating The Brides of Bluebeard we prove to ourselves that we can take control of our creative voices and meet the huge demands of energy and commitment needed to make the show. We are proud to add to the conversation about female identity and power and raise our voices to fill the stage without apology. The music is allegorical of our feminism, as we always strive to make work that has personal resonance and when we talk about our feminism we are also speaking of ourselves, of our voices as women, as one cannot exist without the other. Sometimes we blend, sometimes we sound distinct and individual. But we are always greater than the sum of our parts. We Ruby Dolls do so love to make some noise.
As collaborators we also understand the imperfect nature of our collective. That we challenge each other and work hard to meet each others’ artistic and creative standards. The collaboration of women is no less challenging than any other; our gender does not guarantee harmony. However, the enormous creative freedom we have had to write about women learning from their mistakes, and choosing action over the inevitability of their silence, is a huge privilege and meaningful for all of us. And when we sing in harmony, we prove that we can get away with murder.
In our adaptation, as Bluebeard tries to condemn his wives for their own curiosity, we celebrate the wife that learned from her predecessors and changed the end of the story. We kill Bluebeard ourselves. And no one will miss him. The bastard. But the challenge for us as writers was to also find a way to fall in love with him. We needed to believe the romantic fantasy that the wives project onto Bluebeard in order to uncover his manipulation and coercion. The fairytale had to be believable. We gave the wives lives and stories that took their dead bodies off the slab and reanimated them. We cared about them and recognised them in our own lives. Crucially, we heard their voices.
Killing a monster is easy, but to name the monster in the first place is much more difficult. Our four voices singing in close harmony describes our struggle to resist falling for the false promises and illusions of the Patriarchy, and being silenced. And when we four women sing together we are never more vulnerable nor more powerful. Bluebeard doesn’t stand a chance.
The Brides of Bluebeard is currently touring London and the UK, for more information visit The Ruby Dolls website.