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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The House of Bernarda Alba

Fourth Monkey

Genre: Drama

Venue: The Space on Niddry St


Low Down

A talented young cast bring Lorca’s all female story of repression, passion, and conformity in 1930’s rural Spain to life. Bernarda Alba rules her home with a rod of iron and imposes a strict period of mouring after the death of her second husband. Rivalries and tension begin to emerge among her five daughters as one is courted for her greater fortune until jealousy boils over and tragedy results. 


Fourth Monkey are Fringe regulars bringing several shows each year peformed in repertory by actors in training and new graduates from their innovative training programme. The production has two casts, peforming alternate shows.

The House of Bernarda Alba was written by  Federico García Lorca in 1934, a few years before his early death in 1936. It is often grouped with Blood Wedding and Yerma as a ‘rural trilogy’. Lorca never referred to three as a trilogy but The House of Bernarda Alba shares the same themes of passion, jealousy and repression as the other two. It also stands out as it has no male characters, the love interest of the sisters and cause of the jealousy, Pepe "el Romano", never appears.

The story takes place in the home of Bernarda Alba during a period of mourning. Bernarda wields total control over her five daughters Angustias (39 years old), Magdalena (30), Amelia (27), Martirio, (24), and Adela (20). The housekeeper (La Poncia) and Bernarda’s elderly mother (María Josefa) also live there.  Herein lies the challenge of this piece for a young company; nearly all of the actors are playing women older than themselves, some by 40 years and more. Benarda is 60, her mother in her eighties and La Poncia, her servant, of an age to have grown sons and be a widow. The young actors cope well and manage to convey something of the matriarchal power of rural Spain in the 1930s with particularly strong performances from Eva Scott at Bernarda and Claudia Errico as La Poncia her lifelong servant. Neither overplayed their age, seeming to concentrate rather on the relationship between the two and in doing so conveyed a powerful sense of the co-dependent relationship between the two women and their history of squabbling over many years.

A simple set comprising a single chair for Benarda, emphasising her central role as the matriarch of the family and a movable truck which served a multitude of purposes including door, table, and window. The cast used it to great effect to shift the locus of the story and to create moments of frenetic action. They are all in black with pienetas and veils which gave sense of the world of intense mourning that they inhabit; however, the lighting was generally quite cool and could have contributed more the sense of being in a suffocating place – both in terms of the climate and of the seething jealously between the sisters.

There is a great deal of talent among these young actors and the production is well worth seeing for a glimpse of the future.


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