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Blood Wedding

Frederico Garcia Lorca, adapted by Gareth Jandrell
The Faction
New Diorama Theatre

Ensemble with Andrew Chevalier as the Bridegroom (centre)
Anna-Maria Nabirye as the Mother
Andrew Chevalier as the Bridegroom and Anna-Maria Nabirye as the Mother
Derval Mellett as the Bride and Jonny McPherson as Leonardo
Derval Mellett as the Bride and Laura Freeman as Mother-in-Law

Lorca’s poetic tragedy of blood feud and passion gets a minimalist production from this ensemble company in this new adaptation under director Rachel Valentine Smith. It is played in-the-round with the audience on a single row of chairs against the walls of this black-box theatre. A line of sand in front of them marks out the square of the performance space.

When the lights go up after a blackout to reveal the whole cast with wheelbarrows and buckets, you might think this was a building site but sand here is earth, land and in turn therefore wealth and a handful can represents cash. It is the rich earth of the bridegroom’s land, the poor soil of the bride’s. Rhythmic stamping, clacking of sticks, banging of hoes and spades, tapping on buckets and the rattle of a tambourine rise in a crescendo of sound to a great shout. A young man dips his hand into a can at the centre of the stage and it emerges red with wine, or blood. We know what is coming.

This is a production that relishes theatricality and symbolism. Despite those stamping rhythms it eschews obvious Spanishness. Its songs are of the earth rather than any particular region. Beautifully sung and well integrated into the action, including a lullaby to a mimed baby about a horse that will not drink, they are emotionally powerful; their melodies seem engrained in these people lives. With no composer credited perhaps the tunes are indeed traditional.

The whole company sits on the floor and closely watches the first scene in which Anne-Maria Nabirye’s proud protective mother agrees to her son’s marriage, a reminder perhaps that in village life everyone finds out what’s going on. They don’t stay there all the time but this company often keeps characters in view of the audience, a reminder of other elements of the story.

There is no great contrast between Andrew Chevalier’s Bridegroom and Jonny McPherson’s Leonardo, one linked with the Bride but too poor to marry her, both are likeable and the actors play with feeling. This isn’t the choice between a wimp and a sexy brute. There is no attempt to emphasis social differences; such aspects of the play are subsumed beneath what seems predestined fate.

Derval Mellett’s Bride, looking like a pre-Raphaelite innocent, seems genuinely to be going along with her marriage, although still holding a torch for Leonardo. It is possible that when she claims no man has seen her white breast she may be telling the truth.

The production invents a highly symbolic wedding ritual of controlling ropes and binding hands. This prefiguring of what she can expect from marriage becomes a catalyst for her to flee with Leonardo.

This is a powerful piece of theatre but it hasn’t found a way of handling the symbolic encounter with the Moon and Death. An awkward pattern of implements to represent revealing lunar light and a male moon didn’t crack it.

Blood Wedding runs in repertory with Fiesco and Three Sisters. Check theatre web site for individual performance dates and times.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton