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Blood Wedding – Waterloo East Theatre, London

Writer: Federico García Lorca

Director: Zoe Ford

Reviewer: Robert Cottingham

[rating:5]

bloodwedding_waterlooeastIn the 1930s Lorca wrote a group of plays that were later known as the “rural trilogy”, together with Yerma and The House of Bernardo Alba. Blood Wedding has a gripping storyline: the ties of family versus the bonds that we form with others outside the family circle.

The wedding of the title is between a young woman and a man whose mother is concerned that her son’s bride should be clean and virginal. Her obsession with virginity leads her to discover that her daughter in law is not so pure: she was betrothed for three years before she broke off her engagement to Leonardo, a member of the Felix family. He is now married to somebody else, but unhappily so, and his horse is seen by the bride’s window at night.

The bridegroom’s mother pins all her hopes on her son’s marriage to bring her grandchildren. She has an interest that is uncomfortably close to incest: caressing and kissing him, because her husband died long ago and her son provides her with her sole affection in her life. It’s an environment where most of the men have died or been killed in deadly fights. Women are at the centre of the play. The men are mostly weakened by their sexual urges: for example, Leonardo is unhappily married and is prepared to risk everything to be with the bride, and will stop at nothing to do so.

The stage is set for a conflagration, a spark that will set off a livewire of human tragedy, but Mark Forrester in the rôle of the bride’s father provides much needed comic relief as the good-natured old man who wants only happiness for his daughter and future son-in-law, and how very movingly this is conveyed by Forrester playing a man who resists hatred and refuses to let his heart be blackened by bitterness.

It’s a dark and atmospheric production that feels like walking in the forest at night, full of mysterious noises and shadowy presences which jump out at you. In fact it’s not dissimilar from the cauldron scene of the witches from Macbeth the maids in act one sing a lullaby that warns of the tragic events to come:

‘Horsey’s hooves are red with blood, horsey’s hooves are broken. Deep inside his staring eyes, a silver dagger broken.’

After the interval the play becomes increasingly symbolic and abstract, with characters representing death and moon. The last act becomes one long lament in which the mother grieves for her lost son and turns against the bride and her family. They knit with blood red wool and death comes in the figure of a stripped-bare woman with a grotesquely twisted outstretched hand. There is violence, but we don’t see it, a deliberate decision by director Zoe Ford to move away from the stage descriptions, and present her take on it. The play makes us wonder whether it’s better to leave old longings in the past or risk entering a world of pain and torment. What a stunning production it is and all credit to the cast and crew of Hiraeth for bringing the unsparingly dark vision of Lorca to the London stage.

Runs until 7th July

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