It was with some apprehension that I attended the performance on the Friday night - not being a devotee of tragic drama and having been asked to be a critic. Also, I had not previously seen a performance by Lorca and have a limited knowledge of his work based on literature studies I did many years ago. I wondered as to whether it would suffer in its translation from the Spanish and indeed whether this play is better expressed in the poetry of movement and rhythm using flamenco, ballet, mime etc., rather than the spoken word. Nevertheless, I have always had a great love of theatre, particularly amateur dramatics and have attended countless performances by different groups over the past forty years, including many of those performed at the Unicorn. As with most other times, on this occasion I was not to be disappointed.
Blood Wedding written in 1932 is a melodrama of tragic proportions as suggested in its very title. The central theme is desire, the tragedy being in the characters not really knowing what it is they desire. It is set in the vineyards of rural Spain. A wedding is planned between landowners. The bride has previously been in love with Leonardo, a member of the Felix family, which is blamed for the death of the father and brother of the bridegroom. Leonardo is now married with a child, but passions still run deep.
The play opened with emotive Spanish music. A stark set was used which focused one immediately on the actors and the lighting was used to extremely dramatic effect throughout the play. Of special note were the scenes with the red lighting where the mother did the sign of the cross and the moon with his shadow reflected onto the white wall of the theatre.
In the opening scene I was immediately impressed by the professionalism of Lynne Smith as the mother and she continued to excel throughout the performance in her delivery, pace and sheer passion. This is what Lorca had wanted conveyed and it led into a well-interpreted and passionate performance by all the main characters.
Michael Ward as Leonardo played a very convincing role with such expression of his frustrated desire and Helen Magnay, as the bride, warmed to her role as the play progressed and in the last scene gave a marvellous rendering of her heartfelt feelings and frustrations.
Lorca's poetic drama with its attention to rhythm was clearly evident in both the forest and wedding scenes although I felt the rhythmic chanting could have been used to more dramatic effect, not being quite precise and brisk enough to maximise the impact.
Ruth Lester's portrayal of the unloved wife of Leonardo did well in her expression of frustration and sadness, bound by the rules of the society of the time. Malcolm Ross as the bride's father and Eileen Bagshaw as 'death' gave their usual sterling performances along with Jill Calvert as the mother's neighbour. John Hawkins as the Moon did a great job in providing the atmosphere of impending doom.
The bride's maid was noteworthy in her combination of delivery and body movements. Lorca, in his own direction, felt that in the context of theatre, the body - its harmony and rhythm had been forgotten and its value needed to be restored.
All credit to the crew with special mention of the director/producing team - Lin Beekar and Mary Hichens in bringing this out in all of those taking part. Also, I was not aware of a single prompt being needed - noteworthy in itself!
Congratulations to all for a fine performance.