Watching this production of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding at Hoxton’s Courtyard Theatre, I found myself wondering whether the dramatist was using a parable of opposing families to represent the bigger tensions which were about to convulse his native Spain and bring about his own early death.
For here, in the fraught conjunction of incompatible partners and the Greekly predictable tragedy that results, is nothing less than a civil war between age and youth, tradition and the modern way, social custom and unruly passion.
After all, the play was written and first produced at the start of the decade which saw a bitter three-year struggle with its origins embedded in the conflicts between landed power and democracy, Catholic faith and secularism. Here was a young poet and dramatist, greatly influenced by the surrealism of the so-called Generation of (19)27, and subsequently at odds with the authoritarianism of the emerging Right.
Allegorical or not, this is a play seemingly written in the blood of its title. For this taut presentation by Aria Entertainment, translator Tanya Ronder, and director Bronagh Lagan have between them cut it down to a lean ninety minutes. The result is a reading that is both refreshingly spare and properly unsparing.
Here we have a set of family members identified not by name but by role and hence posing the loaded question of whether they are intended as stereotypes. There is The Mother, starkly played by Lynsey Beauchamp, who has already lost a husband and one son. The other, The Groom is to marry, or rather be married to The Bride, who is the daughter of a remote neighbouring family.
Problem; she doesn’t love him, no matter how hard she tries to give the public impression of doing so. Reason; her heart is still hot from old flame Leonardo, who in Matt Wilman’s able physique, skulks round all menacing and generally pissed-off as a young Brando.
No accident that Leonardo is the only one credited with a name, all the rest being consigned to the list of Servant, Neighbour, Mother-in-Law and the various other functions which they find themselves performing, if reluctantly.
The performances of the cast meanwhile are very far from anonymous. By the time the arranged marriage is consecrated, though not consummated, the production has acquired a body language of enormous eloquence. The pugnacious wedding dances show not unity between the sexes but threat and fear. The parents, far from finding ease in the union of their young, are pictures of anxiety. The ensuing death-struggle between the two young men is not so much a two-way murder as the intricate choreographing (by Edward Linard) of a mutual end.
In case we should have any doubts that this is where the wedding of the blood takes place, Lorca and director Bronagh Lagan ensure that the character of Death (as much danced as played by an elegant Miles Yekinni), is never far from the action. How could he be? He is the action, as watchful as the all-discovering Moon of Tamaryn Payne, both of them as surreal but as bodied-forth as the imagination of Salvador Dali.
Through the plain poetry of the dialogue, Lorca is not quite as hard on humanity as the Fascists were to be on him. Yet he withholds such glibness as the prospect of Nature redeeming the mounting errors of Twentieth Century Man. The towns may be corrupt, but the countryside is savage. Aria’s conveying of all this is a model of well-marshalled energy.
Review by Alan Franks
Inspired by the tragic events of a true story, Blood Wedding is a haunting tale of love, deceit, fate and vengeance. A mother; still grieving for the loss of her husband who was stabbed and killed during a feud with the rival Felix family, finds her son is due to marry. an ex-lover of a Felix. But he is happy to let the past rest, for love… for now.
On the wedding night two lovers ride off on horseback. The Moon and Death, the puppet masters of the piece, overlook it all and ensure our protagonists meet their final destiny.
Company: Aria Entertainment and SOT Stage
Cast: Miles Yekinni, Tamaryn Payne, Patrick Bailey, Edward Linard, Matt Wilman, Jack Hardwick, Anna Bamberger, Elizabeth Manabney, Lynsey Beauchamp, Cassidy Janson, Terri-Ann Brumby, Nicola Duffett
Writer: Federico Garcia Lorca
Translation: Tanya Ronder
Director: Bronagh Lagan
Designer: Franciso Rondiguez-Weil
Composer: Lewis Greenslade
Producer: Katy Lipson
Dates: 16th October 2013 to 16th November 2013 – 8.00pm
Additional Sunday performances at 3:30pm on 3rd and 10th November
*No Monday performances*
Running time: 1hr 20mins
Thursday 7th November 2013