Sparks fly in modern retelling of Spanish classic Blood Wedding
THE greatest punishment one can endure is to burn with desire and stay quiet, according to Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca – and this modern retelling of his famous play Blood Wedding certainly endorses that view.
Set in the community of Edington, near Salisbury, Barney Norris’ contemporary take on the classic tragedy is a richly detailed hymn to the everyday anguish of ordinary lives and a poignant lament for those who cannot endure their lot.
Penned by the Salisbury-based playwright and novelist and premiered at the city’s Playhouse theatre in co-production with Up in Arms, the well-crafted script’s focus on grief and longing incorporates keenly observed local mannerisms and brings out fine performances.
Centred around a small, crumbling village hall – beautifully designed by James Perkins – the action is split into four well-acted scenes and maintains Lorca’s original central plotline of a bride-to-be torn between her fiancé and a hot tempered former flame.
It builds from the moment traveller Lee, who is helping fix up the hall’s roof, invites trouble by accepting an invitation from young groom Rob to the post wedding party.
Unknown to Rob, Lee has a past with his bride, Georgie, which he cannot forget despite being married with children.
The relocation of the tragedy to a yokel setting gives Norris’ ample chance to highlight the beauty of Wiltshire’s rolling hills filled with folklore and the connection people forge with it amid their expectations of life being satisfied, or, as is the case here, not.
A stand out early moment sees a terrific Emmet Byrne as Lee, watching the early morning sunrise in a bid to “see the land catch fire”, disappointed to only see glimpse car lights shining in the distance.
Throughout, it is the small moments, as opposed to huge gestures, that really hit home.
Underpinning the piece is the excellent Jeff Rawle as the village hall caretaker and kindly beating heart of the village, while Reece Evans nicely portrays the giddy naivety of Rob, Theresa Barnham shows the hesitancy and fear in Rob’s mother Helen, Lily Nichol gives glimpses of the shame of Georgie and Eleanor Henderson nicely captures the frustrations of Lee’s wife, Danni.
The understated nature of Alice Hamilton’s direction allows the piece to evolve nicely, indulge the rhythm and language and make the most of several crowd pleasing jokes that Norris sneaks in to encapsulate aspects of Brexit Britain.
But while the play explores change and the feelings of those stuck in place and time, a key part of the piece is the way it itself changes along the way, and the shift in gears from realism to a poetic invective is brave although its preachiness risks jarring some along the way.
The climactic scene sees the main actors clamber off the village hall roof to tell the ending in a rising crescendo reaching towards myths that combines another famous Lorca maxim – the dead can be more alive in one place than another – with Norris’ central reminder; all lives matter.