Angella Marzola-Browne reviews Mermaids’ production of Spanish playwright Federico Lorca’s 1932 play, Blood Wedding.
I knew I was going to enjoy Blood Wedding when, walking into the theatre, I saw the cast lined up along the stage with their backs to the audience. Such a statement reflected the shocking nature this production, which told the tragedy of a bride who, on the day of her wedding to another man, elopes with her cousin’s husband, Leonardo.
This play was full of action, with many scenes focusing on the build up to the doomed wedding. With the actors already onstage, the play began with a dance to Andalusian music, with movements that reflected the desire and lust that drives the plot forward. This was successful in introducing the traditional Spanish setting. Keeping the staging out-of-the-round allowed the action to be directed to the entirety of the audience, and gave depth to the blocking. However, I found issue with the difficulty of the play’s props and set, particularly in the first half: a dining table fully laid, chairs, and trellises, which had to be carried on and off stage repeatedly. While the pieces themselves were effective and enriched the scenes, I felt that the constant disruption to the action was jarring. That said, during these breaks, the playing of Andalusian music gave time for the audience to reflect on the action, lessoning the impact of the brief disruptions.
The use of lighting and live music was truly effective. During the wedding scene, a violinist, drummer, and guitarist played folk music, and the tension caused by the lost bride was intensified by the haunting violin that ended the first half of the play. Likewise, the second half opened with Emma Norman becoming the moon, standing above while the rest of the cast formed grotesque shapes and hissed and whistled to reflect a torturous wood. Being a tragedy, there were many dark elements within the play, but I found this the scariest, with Norman looking like a reanimated Elizabethan, wearing a large ruffled collar and makeup to mimic wrinkles and paleness. The deaths of Leonardo and the Bridegroom were also truly terrifying. Punctuated by the Bride’s screams and the cutting of the lights, the onstage confusion was cleared by the reveal of a long, red, satin cloth connecting the two men, with the Bride finally illuminated in red between their two bodies. Visually, it was highly compelling, and was followed by a captivating, eerie final scene, featuring a knife passed among the cast members while the silhouette of a stained-glass window remained lit up along the back wall. This was both impressive and creepy.
The actors were all brilliant. Toby Poole mastered the sullen anger of Leonardo, and Alex Duckworth was amazing as the Bride, insolent and resigned to her marriage in the first act, and passionate and grief-stricken in the second. Likewise, India Pinker as the Bridegroom’s mother was incredible, playing every inch the widowed matriarch and retaining a refined poise even in the face of her last son’s death. George Watts’ portrayal as the hunched, wailing, bloodthirsty figure in the second half of the play was truly chilling, while Harry Johnson opposite him introduced the violence that would soon occur. Kate McGregor as the sinister old beggar was equally unsettling, and Ben Hood as the unlucky Bridegroom was a perfect ‘mother’s boy’ and spurned lover. Likewise, Imaan Kotadia inspired deep sympathy as both an unhappy wife and a desperate mother, who watched her husband run off with her cousin and then die. Despite the dark subject matter there were still comedic elements, courtesy of Isabella Zeff as a crude yet confident servant and Minoli de Silva as a gossiping neighbour. The costumes were simple yet reflective of the characters, with the cast donning lace masks over their eyes following the wedding to become a formidable hunting party. Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable production and performed with great skill and talent.
Rating: Four stars
Editor: Sarah Crawford