It’s been fifteen years since I first read Blood Wedding, after boldly deciding to discuss Federico García Lorca’s famous play for the final oral presentation of my Spanish A Level. Unsurprisingly, like most exams, the presentation passed in a bit of a blur, but one thing I do remember is using the words ‘tragedia’ and ‘destino’ a lot. And – if I were writing this review in Spanish – I’d be using those same words again now after seeing Dreamcatcher Theatre’s new production of the play, translated and directed by Fay Lomas.
Even before the play begins, as a mournful, haunting lament fills the air, there’s a sense that this story won’t – can’t – end well. There are so many powerful forces aligned against the characters that they really don’t stand a chance. The story begins as a bridegroom in a rural town prepares to marry, while his mother mourns for his murdered father and brother. But we soon learn that the bride-to-be loved another man first – Leonardo, now unhappily married to her cousin, and, to make matters worse, a relative of the murderers. As the wedding day approaches, the tension rises, drawing us towards an inevitable climax that somehow still manages to maintain the suspense.
This is a play that focuses its attention primarily on the female characters, and so it seems fitting that the most memorable performances should come from the women in the cast. By which I mean no disrespect to Paul McLaughlin and Chris Machari, who play the Bridegroom and Leonardo – both give strong, passionate performances; it’s only that the female characters are more complex and well-drawn by their creator.
Jane Hayward is a commanding presence as the Mother, a woman so determined to revel in her own misery that, at times, it almost becomes a comic role – and yet there’s no doubting her genuine distress in the play’s dying moments. Jessica Tomlinson and Bobbi O’Callaghan, as the Bride and the Wife, capture to perfection the confusion and disappointment of two young women tormented by the desire for something they can’t have. And Amanda Bailey shines in a multitude of roles, moving smoothly from local gossip to jolly confidant, from Leonardo’s disapproving mother-in-law to, finally, the sinister figure of Death – at which point her constant presence in each of the characters’ lives takes on a disturbing new meaning, and the initially puzzling decision to cast one actor in so many roles begins to make sense.
Fay Lomas’ adaptation is, for the most part, faithful to the original text, maintaining its combination of poetry and prose, and with only a few necessary adjustments to allow for the smaller cast. The one character who’s noticeably missing is the Bride’s father, who’s never even mentioned, and whose absence means his daughter ends up living alone with her Housekeeper (played, once again, by the ever-present Amanda Bailey).
The play also has a contemporary feel, although the story itself and many of the attitudes within it are very traditional, particularly those relating to marriage and gender roles. Despite this, there are moments that feel just as relevant now as when the play was first performed in 1933 – such as the repeated reflections on the damage that can be wrought by even the smallest of knives, and the brief discussion about whether prison is an adequate punishment for murder.
The second production from Dreamcatcher is intense and visceral, updating Lorca’s work without significantly altering its meaning, and maintaining the sense of impending doom right up to its harrowing conclusion. It’s one thing to read a play – particularly in a foreign language and from an academic perspective – and quite another to watch it unfold in front of you on stage; I’m really glad I finally had that opportunity.
Review by Liz Dyer
BY FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA – TRANSLATED & DIRECTED BY FAY LOMAS
‘My tears come from my very core, and burn like blood.‘
For years, violence has wracked this land and the need for revenge runs deep. Yet the new generation craves a new life, and whilst a Mother grieves her murdered husband and son, a Bridegroom longs for his approaching marriage. But no one is without a past, and his Bride has secrets which cannot remain buried. In a world where passion is as strong as vengeance, hatred and love collide…
With its searing portrayal of desire and violence, Blood Wedding is one of Lorca’s most celebrated plays. Dreamcatcher Theatre, who brought a ‘slick and gripping’, four-star production (James Waygood) of Racine’s Berenice to The Space earlier this year, return to London, presenting this modern Spanish classic in a brand new translation, with original music.
Translator & Director – Fay Lomas
Producer – Maia Von Hurter
Costume Designer – Jasmine Lowe
Set Designer – Anna Kezia Williams
Composer and Musical Director – Robyn Lowe
Lighting Designer – Rajiv Pattani
Stage Manager – Alistair Warr
Neighbour/ Mother-in-Law/Maid/Beggar-woman – Amanda Bailey
Mother – Jane Hayward
Bridegroom – Paul McLaughlin
Leonardo – Chris Machari
Wife – Bobbi O’Callaghan
Bride – Jessica Tomlinson
Bread and Roses Theatre
Tuesday to Saturday 11th to 22nd August 7.30PM
& Saturday Matinees 2.30PM
Running Time: 90 minutes (no interval)
Thursday 13th August 2015