Whilst those accused of bloody murder over a century ago
isn’t breaking new ground for a musical (think Jason Robert Brown’s
Production values are through the roof in this Goth Rock Opera that lends itself more to concert performance than traditional musical.
At the tail end of the 19th century in small-town Massachusetts, Andrew Borden and his second wife Abby were found axe murdered in their home. The main suspect was his daughter Lizzie, but despite a lengthy and much-publicised trial, she was acquitted and no one was ever charged for their slaughter.
Over a century later there are still many theories, but Lizzie Borden remains the prime suspect. For Danish company Frederica Teater it seems there can be little doubt – in this brash sledge-hammer of a show, the murder scene itself is depicted with Lizzie carrying out the gruesome deed in a no holds barred performance that requires audience members in the front row to wear plastic ponchos.
Production values are through the roof in this Goth Rock Opera that lends itself more to concert performance than traditional musical. The cast of four consist of Lizzie (Bjørg Gamst), her older sister Emma (Eden Espinosa), their maid Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan (Jodie Jacobs) and friend Alice Russell (Bleu Woodward). There is very little dialogue, instead the narrative is progressed by each song – often delivered in hand-held mics with stands downstage and Martin Jensen’s dramatic front-facing lighting reinforcing the gig style of this show. Each song hops us to another milestone from motive to execution as director Victoria Bussert puts the historical details of this case under a literal spotlight.
It’s derivative of many styles: The hedonism of Hedwig And The Angry Inch; the melodic repetition of Blood Brothers; the brashy exhibitionism of Eurovision; but as a whole it feels totally original. It’s deliberately anachronistic and almost Dadaistic at times, thwarting your desire to pigeon-hole it into a particular genre. There’s incest, lesbianism, fetishwear and gallons of blood. What’s not to like? But before you worry it’s taking itself too seriously, Jodie Jacob’s “Maggie” releases the pressure with comic brilliance.
A show of this calibre is a coup for Greenwich Theatre. A big-budget production at off-West End prices. Grab a ticket while you still can as the run is tragically short.