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Doña Rosita the Spinster

Federico García Lorca, translated by Rebecca Morahan and Auriol Smith
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
(2004)

Auriol Smith's new production of this Lorca classic follows on from last year's Orange Tree success with The House of Bernarda Alba and manages to fit a cast of twelve into this tiny theatre.

After a rather severe flamenco to get the audience into a suitably Spanish mood, the play starts slowly. We are introduced into the house of an orphan's Uncle played by Tim Hardy, and Aunt (Sheila Reid) in 1885.

The orphan is the heroine, Paula Stockbridge's Doña Rosita, a happy girl joyous in the knowledge of the reciprocated love that she feels for her cousin, who looks like Charlie Chaplin and is played by Michael Rouse.

While her uncle tends the roses that symbolise her life, the play introduces a series of characters that give the drama colour and a real feel of time and place.

After the cousin returns home swearing undying love, DR waits patiently at home for fifteen years into the second act, and a further ten into the last.

Long before the end, this dull-eyed "child" has come to terms with the fact that she will be an eternal spinster for whom love will never return.

The final act set in 1910 puts together the sad triumvirate of aunt, niece and a garrulous but plain-speaking housekeeper who does not know her place. Between them, they draw all of the tragedy out of this "funeral without a body" in wonderful performances from Paula Stockbridge, Sheila Reid and Anna Carteret respectively.

Although it takes time to get going, this poetic new translation of Doña Rosita the Spinster eventually becomes a searing drama of lost love and hope. The three leading actresses are all good and there is also a lovely cameo from character actor, Ian Angus Wilkie as Don Martin, a schoolteacher who is proud of having written an unperformable drama.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher