The Theatreguide.London Review
Almeida Theatre Spring 2005
Federico Garcia Lorca's 1930 play is a drama of uncontrollable passions in a world in which death and the dead are as present as the living. It is about intensity, about a parched Spanish landscape, about men who carry knives and women who grieve.
And very, very little of this is conveyed in this new version of the play by Tanya Ronder or this production by Rufus Norris.
A country boy and girl are being married, but she is still in love with her former beau, himself now married. The two run off together right after the wedding, leading the groom and inevitable tragedy to follow.
Director Rufus Norris employs several effects to generate a semi-mystical atmosphere, to very limited success. The most evocative is the continual employment of a back-lit screen behind which background characters are reduced to human shadow puppets.
Considerably less successful are turning the almost silent choric figure of Death into a bizarre clown who wears his coat backwards and pretends to turn his head in full circle, or presenting the personification of the Moon as a naked black actress swinging from a trapeze.
More importantly, none of the performers in the central roles – bride, groom, lover - convey the slightest suggestion of uncontrollable passion or fate, and nothing in the play generates a sense of hothouse passions, and so the whole thing the play is about simply isn't there.
In that vacuum, the one superior, evocative and moving performance takes over the play, and reshapes it into something new and probably unintended.
Rosaleen Linehan is so strong as the groom's mother, who has already buried a husband and one son, who lives each day with the premonition that she will see her remaining son die before her, and who ends the play preparing one more man for burial with resigned dignity, that she makes this a play about the burden of grieving mothers instead of one about doomed lovers.
To put it another way, she turns a Lorca play into a Synge play, and it is as a Synge play that this otherwise ineffective production has its only success.
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