In recent years, Federico García Lorca has found mainstream British success with the updated adaptation of Yerma. With its focus on the pressures (from without and within) to have children and motherhood’s place in a woman’s identity, it has an international resonance in the 21st century. Just as famous as Yerma – but very different in its themes – is Lorca’s Blood Wedding. In many ways, Spain’s cultural patina permeates Blood Wedding – without a British equivalent and impossible to divorce from the writing. In this latest production which is adapted and directed by George Richmond-Scott, the play has been updated to present day Britain, but retains the crucial and distinctive Spanish piquancy.
Core to Blood Wedding is its backstory – the murder of a man by a member of the Felix family, leaving a wife and infant son to grieve. By the time the son becomes a man, his mother is still bitter at the senseless death of her husband and harbours a hatred of knives – the weapon used to kill him. While there are certainly modern parallels with knife crime, the inception of the original play – at the cusp of the Spanish Civil War – gives insight into the Mother’s intense feelings. At a time when one’s neighbours were held with suspicion and one’s personal politics meant defending oneself from violence, the past bled into the present.
Maria de Lima plays ‘the Mother’ and brings an authenticity to the production, a passion that cannot be softened by the passing of time. She, plus her neighbour (Camilla Mathias) speak Spanish at select intervals in the play. This has the effect of subliminally tapping into the inherent energy and meter of the original text, and without explanation the audience senses these are the moments where there aren’t words in English to convey the depth of emotions the characters feel.
There is an inventive use of space, including (without the audience’s initial realisation) a moment of immersive theatre, which precipitates the action in the second half of the show. Previously, the set represented various homes indoors – the lighting suggesting a warmth to the surroundings. However, the external scenes, their ‘cool’ luminance and the otherworldly gait of Yorgos Karamalegos’ ‘Moon’ evoke the ‘off-kilter’ nature of Simon Stephens’ Three Kingdoms.
The first half of the show is arguably the strongest in its conception, with its fully-realised female characters, subtle use of music and taut sense of foreboding. In the 86 years since the play’s inception, its themes about deception (to oneself and others), choice and ‘fate’ (circumstances ‘beyond one’s control’) are just as relevant today, echoing the perennially messy nature of the human condition.
© Michael Davis 2018
Blood Wedding runs at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham until 23rd September.
CAST: Maria de Lima, Camilla Mathias, Federico Trujillo, Ash Rizi, Miztli Rose Neville, Racheal Ofori, Yorgos Karamalegos.