FringeReview UK 2017
Lorca’s 1932 Blood Wedding is brought to the small flexible New Venture Theatre Studio space in an eighteen-cast strong cast which manoeuvres around the compact set designed and lit by Stat Mastoris. Directed by Chris Dangerfield and using Ted Hughes’ version. With filmography by Alistair Lock; and sound – mainly Falla’s music – where Dangerfield’s joined by music director Steve Hoar and Jazz Bowden. Freia Metzger’s costumes and Leanne Mckenzie’s makeup head a cast of other creatives.
Chris Dangerfield brings Lorca’s 1932 Blood Wedding to the small flexible New Venture Theatre Studio space in an eighteen-cast strong cast which manoeuvres around the compact set designed and lit by Stat Mastoris. Using Ted Hughes’ version and involving a heady mix of verse, singing and ensemble ritual, it demands the impossible in tonal inflection. In dramatic scope and scale too it’s the most ambitious and certainly bravest gambit of the season.
The set’s s true valency flowers in the second act with lighting and spooky sylvan filmography by Alistair Lock; and sound – mainly Falla’s music – where Dangerfield’s joined by music director Steve Hoar and Jazz Bowden. Freia Metzger’s costumes startle in their detail and verismo. Leanne Mckenzie’s makeup – especially with the woodmen’s earthy striping like rippling beasts – calls for special praise too.
Mastoris’ stark set consists en face of two white plaster boards doing duties for walls with an entrance and some rural props, stone jars and later on a sumptuous wedding feast spread over a table. It’s later with projected forest scenes and digital lunation (there’s a talking Moon) that these approximations to traditional whitewashed stone walls leap into presence and you see the neatness of it.
Based on a news item, Lorca explores roles by naming all people but Leonardo as functions only, generating a ritual or glowering tragedy. Sam Chittenden’s Mother troubles over with Neighbour Lex Lake the imminent marriage of her son Bridegroom Marc Pinto to Bride Ruby Phelan.
We learn later the Bride’s been attracted to Leonardo in the past, one of the Felix clan who killed Mother’s husband. Whilst Phelan exudes shrinking unease with her intended she’s out on stalks for confronting and chiding Jamie Marchant’s haughty Leonardo who comes sniffing for no good reason.
His Wife Kasha Goodenough almost steals the show in a harrowing picture of a woman already disdained by her husband, pregnant with their second child, longing for love. Marchant and Goodenough generate a lowering indifference and anguish, barely contained by either. Marchant’s scant thanks for his lemon drink sums up the citric bitterness of their union.
When the inevitable sparks and spurs fly and Marchant and Phelan vanish, it’s Marchant’s unbending machismo that stamps most tension – he’s almost too unbending here, though the role’s two-dimensioned. Phelan, so subdued, submissive earlier, now flares into tragic reciprocity. Why they didn’t marry earlier cries on the havoc of timing.
There’s fine brief work from many, including David Balfe’s shrinking Father (of Bride), Amanda Harman’s Mother in Law, Ruth Tansey’s strikingly-voiced Guest, and Beggar Woman aka Death a heavily disguised Heather Andrews. It’s difficult not to sound pantomime witch in a cackle but Andrews generates menace and malign delight in her sticky-bud havering. As does Adam Kincaid’s beautifully delivered, thoroughly unpleasant Moon, erasing any comedic potential uploaded through digital projection. Servant Ellie Mason sings with true affect in a drama studded with chorus and refrain. Sarah Elliott, Joana Crocker and Juan Rousselot swell with smaller roles to effect just that.
One riveting scene displays the three Woodcutters, striped up in virid greens, black earth and umbers, pre-set for the second half, memorable in their verse delivery: Matt Green, Matt Mulvay, Cosmo Rana-Iozzi deliver the set ensemble piece of the evening, identifying with the lovers, entering a plea for an end to tragic spirals.
Manuel de Falla and Lorca were extraordinarily close: Lorca composed songs with him. Falla’s music’s an obvious match, though musicians Ellie Mason (cello), Sarah Elliott (Guitar) and Adam Kincaid (guitar) produce evocative live music-making that renders the recorded orchestral Falla rather heavy and out of scale. Falla live is probably the answer.
There’s no swift way to convey duende, the spirit of flamenco, passion and tragedy so unrelentingly – and there’s not a hint of comedy here, no shading to hide in. Not to skirt bathos calls on miracles, tightroped between fervour and the feverishly overwrought. Though tonally some cast members manage it more fluently, this hugely challenging drama stamps out its soul in this courageous, literally no-prisoners production.