A fun, toe tappin’ schlock-horror romp, The Bloody Ballad whips up a mixture of live music and theatre to create what could be described as a narrative gig. Inspired by Abram Woods’ tale Mary Maid of the Mill, we follow slightly psychotic Mary (Lucy Rivers) as she begins a relationship with equally damaged Connor (Oliver Wood). Not all is as it seems, however, and swiftly the story becomes a Tarantino-esque wash of gore and Rock.
Imagined in the 1950’s, the music is a mash-up of Blues, Rock and Country. This is absolutely the strongest aspect of the show and alone is worth the ticket price - my show notes contain conspicuous gaps where I was too busy rocking out. Unfortunately on occasion the vocals didn’t match the power of the instrumentals: lyrics were not always clear and the vocals could be rather thin. I want to stress that this was only an occasional problem and does not detract from the fact that the musical numbers were seriously cool.
Somewhat weaker is the execution of the narrative. The opening two thirds of the show dragged and lacked the energy of the songs. Initially I thought this was an issue with the nature of the staging: set out like a straight gig, characters would use the lead mic as a focal point, passing it between each other or taking it in turns to be centre stage. I wasn’t convinced as to how effective this technique was as it tended to chop up the pace, yet the closing third proved otherwise with the cast owning the stage, pulling standing mics back and forth in a display of strong creative blocking. There is little excuse, therefore, for the stilted earlier scenes.
This gruesome comedy provides an entertaining diversion but I would have been more than happy to have done away with most of the story itself. A catchy finale, however, leaves the production on a high and I found myself singing all the way home.