The Bloody Ballad

Meet Mary: a girl with a dark past who’s had one hell of a week!  She’s gonna tell you all about it; how she fell in love, got betrayed, killed two men, gets taken hostage, more murder, a spot of arson, and then fell in love all over again!  All backed by the pounding rhythm of the show’s band “The Missing Fingers”.

Grimm meets Tarantino in this brutal love story set around Memorial Day celebrations in 1950’s America.  Featuring original live music inspired by Blues, Rockabilly, and Americana. Part gig, part slasher movie, part road movie, part murder ballad and a whole lotta fun! Music theatre like you’ve never seen before.

Credits

Featuring Mary and The Missing Fingers
Written by Lucy Rivers
Director: Adele Thomas
Music: Lucy Rivers
Designer: Lisa Leighton
Lighting Designer: Will James and Jane Lalljee
Sound Designer: Dan Lawrence
Creative Associate: Dafydd James
Movement Director: Jem Treayes
Fight Director: Kev McCurdy
Cast: Tom Cottle, Hannah McPake, Dan Messore, Lucy Rivers and Oliver Wood.

Ages 14+

Supported by Arts Council of Wales and Theatr Iolo

Gallery

Photography by Kirsten McTernan.

Reviews

★★★★ “Little Mary is sugar and spice, with a side of vice. And it’s been one bloody hell of a weekend!”
Amy Holtz – Broadway Baby

“Surprising, energetic, anarchic, touching, shocking and playful.”
Paul Crewes – Producer of Kneehigh

“Amusing, Gripping and riveting”
The Observer – Clare Brennan

“Gruesome Good Fun … Full throttle, noisy exuberance and tongue-in-cheek grotesquerie is hard to resist”
The Times – Sam Marlowe

★★★★ “as good an original score as you’re likely to hear … entertainment, pure but not so simple.”
The Arts Desk – Gary Raymond

“Exciting, unmissable new theatre. You will leave beaming.”
The Stage

“life-affirming even when the subject is bloody murder.”
Wales Arts Review – Phil Morris

★★★★★ “This feels like a cult classic of the future.”
The Public Reviews

★★★★★ “Think ‘Grease’ meets ‘Scream’ in this chilling tale of murder, arson and betrayal.”
Three Weeks – Rebecca Lunn

★★★★ “It’s the songs that really set this one apart, turning a fun show into a riot.”
Fest Magazine – Ed Ballard

★★★★★ “It’s a heady mix, and provided you’ve a stomach strong enough – it’s utterly unmissable. Unique and excellent … If Johnny Cash and Nick Cave had written Heathers, they might have come up with something similar.”
The Big Issue – Laura Kelly

★★★★★ “Raucous, riotous and totally debauched ‘The Bloody Ballad’ is Bloody Brilliant!”
The Quotidiant Times

★★★★★ “This thrilling journey of romance and murder is exceptionally well-told.”
Edinburgh Reporter – George Ward

“Their ‘Bloody Ballad’ is just that, a wild and wonderful mix of singing, music and story-telling with a good dollop of horror for good measure.”
remotegoat.com – Dorothy Billing

Gagglebabble’s The Bloody Ballad combines the charm of a charismatic country rock band with a punchy cast of characters led by the multi-talented Lucy Rivers as Mary, taking the audience on a tale of blood-thirsty revenge through the streets of a sleepy American town.

The Bloody Ballad is beautifully simple – the house band of the Memorial Dance enact Mary’s story in-between their numbers and we the guests are her captive audience.

The seamless interplay of live and recorded sound works like a film score, transporting the audience into a full imagined world, we see the counter of the gas station and Mary’s array of pies just as clearly as the subtle courting dance around the microphone which signals the growing passion of the two lovers. Adele Thomas’s excellent direction creates this blend of the live and the imaginary throughout the vibrant performance, alongside the fantastic lighting and sound design of Jane Lalljee and Dan Lawrence respectively.

At times the production struggled to fill the large Main House at the Warren, particularly during the longer musical moments, and might benefit from a more intimate setting to feel the claustrophobia of Mary’s abusive life.

Hannah McPake gives a stand-out performance as the grotesque, leopard-print clad mother of Connor, Mary’s troubled lover, lifting the second half of the production with her humour and psychotic drive for vengeance.

An endearing version of Tarantino’s Natural Born Killers, The Bloody Ballad is feisty and refreshing, infused with laughs, surprises and full to the brim with talent. The audience left smiling; singing along to the tunes but gripped by how the dark humour of the piece communicated the violence done to this young woman through the violence she felt she needed to perpetrate to escape.

Brighton Fringe 2014 – Jessica Cheetham

Swaying on a stalk between pastiche and parody, Bloody Ballad roots itself in homage to the idealised South.

This endearing switchblade romance, told in retrospect through honky-tonk and sweet nothings murmured between Mary and the mysterious drifter, Connor, is a slice of 50s Americana with a blackened heart. Swaying on a stalk between pastiche and parody, Bloody Ballad roots itself in homage to the idealised South – in soda pop, bouffants and gas pumps, so neatly rendered you can almost feel the dust and magnolia clogging your nostrils while Hank Sr fills your ears with his jangling guitar.

Lucy Rivers’ fresh-faced, wide-grinned eagerness is catching; she channels Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn – a gas station owner’s daughter trying and spectacularly failing to stamp out her macabre, Carrie-like urges. Two parts sunshine to one part venom, there’s a whole lotta creepy going on. There is another star turn which comes out of the swampland blinking and spitting fire – to be saved, of course, for your own viewing pleasure.

The cast is as adept with physicality as they are with their various instruments, seguing between backing band The Missing Fingers to providing an atmospheric soundtrack to the cheerfully menacing narrative. Rivers’ original songs are stitched into the story like poodles on a skirt – you’ll be hard-pressed to keep yourself still through the blackly comedic What My Daddy Done and People Who Is Evil Gotta Die (laughs aplenty while playing fast and loose with grammar, folks). It’s a show that’s handy at adapting to spare spaces – it looks sharp, retro and stylish. It doesn’t have to try too hard to be liked. And it deserves all the word-of-mouth success it currently enjoys.

The only legitimate gripes I can muster concern the bagginess of Connor’s trousers (would Elvis have left that much to the imagination?) and the inevitable ropiness of the Southern accent to which I seem to be acutely attuned. But it’s not much, not for this welcome addition to the gorecore renaissance – the surreal, gruesome humour of True Blood with the doe-eyed sweetness of True Romance – Bloody Ballad is sweet as pecan pie. Just keep one eye (or finger) out for the razor lurking within.

Broadway Baby – Amy Holtz, from Brighton Fringe 2014

The Bloody Ballad featuring Mary and The Missing Fingers is a roller coaster of happy rock and roll mixed with dirty southern blues music (see Black Snake Moan) all written by leading lady Lucy Rivers. Witty lyrics and strangely authentic songs, the cast of five follow the story of Rivers’ ‘hell of a week’ in which she falls in love and briefly out of love and then back into love again. It’s all very rock and roll.

The hour long play is a mixture of a Tarantino films, The Rocky Horror Show, Walk the Line and a selection of the most sinister passages of Goethe’s Faust. It is a weirdly sexy mix of hate, love and loneliness in the American mid-west with wonderful musical support by Tom Cottle, Hannah McPake, Dan Messore and Oliver Wood who form the Missing Fingers (a name which refers to… well… I won’t give that away). The setting is perfect and you could quite easily drift away into your own mind and imagine yourself in a gas station or a bar with the ‘ghosts of electricity’ from the steel guitars on the radio howling into the night while you watch a love story unfold and the tension of a damaged girl’s sad memories build up until they beat on her brain and she snaps.It would almost seem a shame to give a synopsis of this play because it would ruin the atmosphere which is expertly created by director Adele Thomas and her cast of five. Highly recommended!

Plastik Magazine – Marc Thomas

Set in a 1950s mid-west American town, The Bloody Ballad follows the story of Mary (played by Lucy Rivers) as she embarks on a dangerous love affair. The production follows the deadly outcome and features the brilliant Missing Fingers rockabilly/rock’n’roll/Americana band of which Lucy is the lead singer. A cast of five, Tom Cottle, Hannah McPake, Dan Messore and Oliver Wood and a relatively sparse set conjure the most brilliant, dark and immersive piece of theatre I’ve seen for a long time. David Lynch merged with Nick Cave in a dark alley on crack, set to rocking live performance.

Written by Lucy, the disturbing and dark lyrics give an authentic feel and set the tone of a dusty outback town where not a lot happens. The bizarre relationship Mary and ‘a stranger’ embark upon is the core of the story as is her isolated and damaged relationship with her father. The outcome is both funny and horrific. Lucy has created a piece of theatre which if you get the chance to see you really should. Embrace the vibe and get the Brylcreem, prom dress and knife on standby!

Buzz Magazine – Antonia LeVay

Imagine a rock ’n’ roll horror story; half concert half theatre with wild choreography and irresistible rockabilly tunes. In The Bloody Ballad the audience is invited back to 1950s Midwest America, in a retro stage set with some nice blues and country songs played by the multitalented Missing Fingers. Everyone gets into a festive mood until Mary Maid bursts into the room covered with blood and tells us her story.

While young women of her age are full of aspirations, Mary has lost her faith in life. She lives with her alcoholic father, ‘this damn son of a bitch’ as she calls him, in the gloomy town of Evergreen. But one day, she meets Connor: a mysterious man who will steal her heart and change her life forever. As Mary discovers love and happiness, she also sees her dark desires resurface. The night before Memorial Day, the sweet romance turns into a bloody ballad about lifes disillusions and loves obsessions. Expect to see fingers flying, a murderous crazy mum, gunshots and startling twists, topped with a humorous and tounge-in-cheek way of dealing with horror movie plots.

From the lights to the sound effects, everything is meticulously orchestrated to turn a simple stage into a cinematic 1950s American scene. The band perfectly fits into the story as musicians become actors and actors go back to their instruments throughout the show. Don’t miss this alternative gory version to fairytales.

The Miniature Music Press – Amel Semmache

American flags hang from the ceiling, chequered red and white tablecloths cover the front row and a band play Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochran numbers – walking through a gold string curtain has turned South Wales into the Mid West.

The band, named The Missing Fingers, welcome their blood-stained chanteuse – Mary Maid (played by the show’s creator, Lucy Rivers). She takes us back to Memorial Day in the 1950s and her mundane life working at her abusive fathers’ garage (a world away from the Welsh folk tale it’s inspired by, Mary Maid on the Mill.)

This is where Mary meets Connor – a charismatic drifter that steals her heart instantly. Although unlocked from her lonely existence, Mary also develops a violent passion for slicing digits.

It doesn’t sound like a solid source for humour, but it is. There are plenty of laughs to be had between the bloodshed that’s propelled by the Missing Fingers’ set of blues and rockabilly.

Add to this a sizable helping of audience participation (in the singing, not the violence) and you’ve got a show that’s part gig, part horror and complete fairytale fantasy – a skilful weaving of the three by Rivers and The Missing Fingers.

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