Presented by: Sydney Theatre Company
Venue: Wharf 1 – Hickson Rd Walsh Bay
Wednesday 10 August, 2011
It’s hard to believe that a writer and his words could be so filled with passion that they could get someone assassinated, particularly in these artistically ambivalent times. But this is exactly what happened to Frederico Garcia Lorca who was arrested and shot in August 1936 in a fusion of passion and politics.
Blood Wedding is the most poetic and lyrical of Lorca’s ‘rural trilogy’ and possibly the most difficult to translate. The first half of the show is not dissimilar to the other rural plays, Yerma and The House of Bernada Alba, with a mix of dialogue, passion, dance and music bringing to mind a Spanish drama just stopping short of the melodramatic. Before the play even opens, members of the cast hand out sugared almonds in the style of a Spanish wedding. A simple square stage, a guitarist plays while a still and tense Leah Purcell as The Mother sits primed and waiting, a young woman in jeans and ugg boots hands out the almonds along with other cast members as casually dressed. It creates a nice relaxed vibe, although feels a little disconcerting as it breaks the ‘fourth wall’ feeling just enough to make suspension of disbelief difficult.
Maybe it’s because her character is immediately evident from before the curtain goes up, but Leah Purcell is extraordinary as The Mother. Her physicality is flawless and you can see The Mother’s passion and pain in every stylized turn and each poetic word. Everything revolves around her son who has asked permission to wed a nice girl from another town, the bride-to-be has had a long ago affair with her cousins husband that ends up being not as dead as they had hoped.
The story, in itself, is not particularly different to what we have seen since ancient times but the composition is. Yalin Ozucelik is powerful and full of angry passion as Leonardo but without a measure of softness to allow us to see why Sophie Ross’s Bride would risk what she does. The Bride, as played by Sophie Ross, is soft with great bursts of emotional anger and a sense of realism that provides a different rhythm again. The performances are strong, in particular Leah Purcell and Kenneth Spiteri who plays The Groom, but as in the beginning when the cast casually hand out almonds, what is happening on stage sometimes doesn’t gel. Different styles of performance, a cast that start in jeans, the dancing that appears sporadically and then a complete turn around in the second half.
In the second half we are in the woods and Lorca’s poetry begins in earnest. Characters become woodcutters and The Moon is covered in blood. The Bride and Leonardo do meet and The Groom tries to alter an inevitable tragedy. The second half works as a piece of theatrical poetry. The first half mostly works as a rural drama but there is a through line missing that allows a connection. Some surrealism in the first half perhaps, or an entire cast in character and stylized the entire time? It is worth seeing. It is a magnificent piece, and for Leah Purcell’s performance alone it is worth the price of admission, but a little consolidation would have allowed the poetry to fully filter and appeal to an audience so different from the one originally intended.
Until 11 September, 2011
© Photo by Brett Boardman
Leah Purcell, Kenneth Spiteri & Sophie Ross in Blood Wedding