Okay, so I finally got around to a night out at the Malthouse Theatre to see Blood Wedding as I had planned earlier in the year.
First things first, what a great venue! I’m a sucker for bricks, red doors and high ceilings and when a building with all of those things is a theatre, that’s even better. There’s a restaurant/bar there and the food was lovely. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a good meal and a glass of wine before heading to your seat.
Now on to the show.
I should put in a quick disclaimer that the Blood Wedding script, by Federico Garcia Lorca, holds a very special place in my heart. When I was 18, I went through a pretty rough patch and playing the part of Leonardo’s Wife in a University production of this play was a wonderful way to vicariously release some pent-up emotions. I fell in love with the characters and with Lorca’s poetic dialogue. I was at my happiest when I was in the rehearsal room twirling around in a full skirt pretending I could actually flamenco dance. Because of this, it is hard for me to detach from that interpretation, which really doesn’t provide for many objective thoughts, but here they are anyway.
This performance was completely different to our version. Mainly by being bilingual (Spanish & English) and a contemporary portrayal (originally written in 1932, this particular show was set in modern-day Spain). I loved the first half. As I mentioned earlier, this venue has some seriously high ceilings and because of that, the space in Malthouse’s Merlyn Theatre feels so open. As easy as it would be to get lost in all of that space, the articulation and energy of the actors had the eye drawn directly to them in the centre of the stage, which was covered in crunchy dirt and sand. This then brings me to the Spanish setting and the heat. Obviously, being the middle of August, it’s freezing in Melbourne. This script however, that often makes reference to working the harsh land, calls for an environment of enveloping, unbearable heat. The dry ground under foot that left clouds of dust with each step and the uncomfortable physicality of all actors on stage had me at the point where I could sense the warmth of a blazing summer sun. I could even imagine what a dry, Spanish summers day might feel like.
As a bit of a background, the story begins with dialogue between a young man, Bridegroom, and Mother who is a strong matriarch sent a little crazy by the death of her husband and eldest son in a knife fight. Bridegroom intends to marry his girlfriend, Bride, but when Mother finds out she has been in love once before to a man named Leonardo Felix, the son of the man who killed her boys, a tale of loves entanglements follows.
Leonardo is now married, with child and one on the way, to Bride’s cousin, Leonardo’s Wife. You can tell that his wife is aware that he is distant because his heart lies elsewhere. We then find ourselves at the wedding of Bridegroom and Bride where Leonardo and his family are guests. *Spoiler alert* Finding the pull of their attractions too strong, during the reception Leonardo and Bride run away together. Losing his temper, Bridegroom chases after them with knife in hand and Mother foretells of more devastation and loss because of knives.
“Knives, knives… Curse them all, and the wretch who invented them…”
This is when the script introduces elements of fantasy. Leonardo and Bride run to the woods to hide and here we meet Moon and Death, a Beggar Woman. The Moon is cold and longs for blood to warm him so he makes a deal with Death that he will light the path to Leonardo, leading Bridegroom to him so they may fight until they kill each other. Both men die in the fight leaving Bride to live with her guilt and shame and the hatred of the other women in town who mourn their loss. Leonardo is the only character who is named, all others are labelled merely by who they are i.e. Mother, Bridegroom, Leonardo’s Wife etc. I enjoyed the Director’s Note as to why this is: “One son is literally branded (he is the only ‘named’ character in the piece) by his father’s past actions”.
That’s it in a nutshell folks. Although that explanation gives you a rough idea, it really doesn’t do the story justice and if you enjoy scripts I would definitely recommend reading this one.
Back to the show. Obviously an attraction that causes a man and a woman to leave their families and children behind, knowing they will be exiled from their community for it, is a strong connection. In this show, I didn’t fully believe that they were intrinsically drawn to each other and so it just made me think they were rash and selfish for running away. However, when I first read the play five years ago, without agreeing with their decisions, I certainly empathised with why Leonardo and Bride felt they had no other choice but to run away together. I understood that for them, being without each other was to be as good as dead and so the risk was worth it. At about the half way mark, the change from real to fantasy wasn’t as seamless as it could have been. It felt a bit rushed and with such a masterful use of words in the script at this moment, I had so been looking forward to this part. I am admittedly inclined to like a very particular way of telling this story though, so I guess for me to still enjoy a completely different version means it has to be pretty good.
The actress cast in the part of Bride, Silvia Colloca, was the Queen Bride in Van Helsing and was truly beautiful to watch. Again, the set was amazing and there was live music on stage (guitar playing and singing) which was fantastic! The integration of the passionate Spanish language was perfection. It was beautiful to listen to, help set the scene and does not detract from the telling of the story if you, like me, don’t understand a word of it. If you don’t get the chance to catch this production but enjoy a night at the theatre, then definitely keep an eye out for Blood Wedding being performed elsewhere.