Writer: Frederico Garcia Lorca
Adaptor: David Ireland
Director: Jenny Sealey
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Blood is thicker than water so the saying goes, and in in Lorca’s Blood Wedding family ties and blood certainly combine into some potent drama.
As two families come together for a wedding it becomes clear that there are dark secrets just below the surface. Bitter family feuds and affairs threaten to rise to the surface and wreck the big day. When they finally surface it’s clear that bloody retribution is never going to be far away.
In David Ireland’s adaptation of Lorca’s original text, for Dundee Rep, Derby Theatre and Graeae, the traditional Andalusian setting has transposed to a modern British city and the text given the soap opera treatment.
This is very much a straight talking production – there’s no poetic licence here as characters speak their thoughts with unflinching honesty. That openness and honesty is reflected in Jenny Sealey’s production, integrating sign language, captioning and audio description to provide a sense of inclusivity. That inclusivity means that the brutality of the words is reinforced by onstage projection of the script giving a raw, almost Brechtian feel to the piece.
It’s a brave and radical move and should be applauded for its determination not to shy away from the physicality or ethnicity of its cast. In overtly politically correct times, it’s refreshing to hear a script that pokes fun at and ultimately bursts many bubbles of misconception.
That bravery comes at a cost though and here the cost is a heavy one. Lorca is renowned for his masterly use of the poetic and in Ireland’s drive for naturalism that poetry is lost. It may strive for accessibility but ultimately the banality of the dialogue loses much of the passion and tragedy needed to drive the narrative forward.
The ensemble company work well together and do manage to create some moments of genuine passion, but those moments are too intermittent to carry two hours of drama. The premise may have been to make the piece accessible, but Ireland’s adaptation makes it hard to get any real sense of character apart from the superficial bravado.
There are elements that really work – Lisa Sangster and Ian Scott’s set and lighting designs are impressive and create a real sense of atmosphere to the piece. There are some sightline issues that this touring production hasn’t fully overcome, but it’s the staging that provides the piece with much of its atmosphere and sense of brooding.
Texts should never be treated as sacred works that can’t be looked upon with fresh eyes, and a traditional Lorca piece can be, in the wrong hands, heavy going. Jenny Sealey has shown in the past, with work such as The Threepenny Opera, that she isn’t afraid to take that fresh look. Sadly in Blood Wedding, while the intentions and concept are admirable, the end result is slightly anaemic.
Runs until 16 April and then continues to tour