The start of Blood Wedding is probably very annoying for people who dislike spoilers: two knives are held up and plunged into the ground, rather like a Greek tragedy play, an extremely unsubtle way of revealing how this story will end. Except this play is set in rural Spain, in ‘the present day’ (for which read 1933, when it premiered in Madrid), so to get anywhere more than a mile away from one’s house, one still travelled on horseback.
Blood Wedding is clearly influenced by ancient literature, particularly in the way in which the supernatural manifests itself (and not according to the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church), and its continued focus on knives, which, in ancient stories is the instrument of sacrifice. There’s a scene in the forest which I must admit I don’t fully understand. Why would a group of people be in a forest at night picking up stones to put into baskets, and musing on events in the play?
Anyway, the play runs the gamut of human emotions. There is the unrelenting bitterness of the Mother (a fierce and highly absorbing Jane Hayward) because of a continued feud between families (think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) that has resulted in direct relatives being murdered. Her one remaining son, named only as the Bridegroom (Paul McLaughlin) is to be married to the equally unimaginatively titled Bride (Jessica Tomlinson), but even before the elation and jubilation that is to be expected from a wedding is over, Bride has run off with her first love Leonardo (Chris Machari); but Leonardo is of the Felix clan, so hated by Mother. After this, the show is relentlessly dark and depressing.
It is ambiguous as to how both men in the play die at the same time, as we see nothing on stage, and all we hear is Bride screaming off-stage. It is, as far as I can deduce, the Moon that has conspired with Death (the supernatural element again), the former supplying the light for the latter to see what it is doing properly. To scoff at such a method of death is to be somewhat culturally insensitive, as is not grasping the paramount importance attached to personal and family honour.
It’s a very ambitious production, exploring the demands of personal instinct and how they may be satisfied. It is society that has ruled that it is inappropriate for Bride to be in a relationship with a man other than Bridegroom, and yet, as Bride put it, “the other one’s arm dragged me like a wave from the sea” – that is, an irresistible lure that trying to fight off would be an exercise in futility. She did what she did for love. And it is this instinct that is rather like fate, because to act on it may have good or bad consequences dependent on specific circumstances.
I have been more philosophical than I would have liked. But this is the nature of the play – it’s a deep one, laced with metaphors and cross-references. The text is spoken relatively slowly by the company, to allow the audience to take in what’s being said within and between the lines: the dense script means the show does not drag on. And yet the setting and original text mean that some understanding of Spanish customs would be helpful to get the full benefit of this play. I was not, for instance, until I looked it up online on the way home out of curiosity, familiar with the significance of orange blossoms at a Spanish wedding, and why such a big fuss was made over it in the play.
I was particularly moved by the Mother refusing a kiss from her son Bridegroom in the first scene, almost snapping, “You are far too big for kisses now,” adding that as he is getting married, if he really wants someone to kiss, he should kiss Bride. In the final scene, Mother regrets she cannot kiss him anymore, as though kicking herself for not having done so one last time when she had the chance.
There is much food for thought and lots to observe in Blood Wedding. I liked the genuine sadness at the passing of two characters, and how it didn’t pass over into melodramatic emotionalism. The cast do this tragedy sufficient justice. At times sincere, at times provocative, but always intense, this production is best enjoyed by the theatregoer who likes their dramas powerful and intimate.
Review by Chris Omaweng
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