Blood Wedding at Derby Theatre
This amazing co-production from Derby Theatre, Graeae and Dundee Rep Theatre of Blood Wedding is bloody good theatre.
Playwright David Ireland's new adaptation of Frederico Garcia Lorca's tensely beautiful poetic tale of love, lust, betrayal and death is a contemporary take told like a soap opera with a rapidly filling swear box on the side. It is bold, lusty, comical, irreverent and daring. It deserves to be seen as, like Graeae's other work, it gives a deeper meaning to the word 'theatrical' and properly demonstrates talents of the deaf and disabled and able bodied casts entwined.
Whilst Lorca's original story was full of poetic dialogue, symbolism and a deep feeling of heated sexual claustrophobia this production substitutes the heat of Andalusia with urban families (with violent backgrounds) in a 21st Century environment. Former villains of each family are either dead or in jail but their legacies of violence live on throughout the unfolding story. The two families try to keep the peace for the sake of the future and the upcoming wedding of Olivia and Edward. Happiness should be on the cards but, in this adaptation, despite it being extremely funny, dark clouds loom over the family joys as bad boy Leonardo ruffles the feathers of the soon to be bride with his unbridled lust. She claims not to be interested but their lusts and her uncertainties tell another story.
The play is superbly directed by Graeae's Jenny Sealey and the excitement comes from her mixed cast of actors. What other company would give the audience a multi-sensory version of the same play? We have deaf actors and signing actors working together to build up a collusion of interpretation using simultaneous texting above the action - quite often with hilarious results as the deaf mother Agnes spills out her bitter feelings and Edward, the signing son, diplomatically edits them for the benefit of family peace. We have able bodied and disabled actors as lovers and it works superbly and interestingly, in this production we have the story-line deliberately referring to the deaf and disabled in a way that is supportive of them and their characters but, also reveals the difficulties other encounter in communication through humour. It is a brave piece of theatre work that deserves to be enjoyed and supported.
Most importantly, the deaf and blind members of the audience were able to enjoy the piece the same as any other audience member through the clever writing that described actions through and about the actors and the afore-mentioned simultaneous signing and projected text.
Does the adaptation work in the style that David Ireland has written and the director and cast have work-shopped? I was expecting to have to think hard about the story-line and the characters and perhaps struggle in understanding the poetics but no. It is written in clear, often very blunt, dialogue and the characters all lived for me as very recognisable. In particular to do with the kinds of behaviour that one witnesses at many weddings. It is funny but turns savagely dark at the end. It is brash and performed in a compelling mixture of styles and it is a shake up of perceptions. It entertains and disturbs to brilliant effect. The set is designed by Nickie Sangster as a neon lit environment where restaurants glide on in one scene and a wooded park is shown as a screen of movable bright green neon lights.
The wonderful ensemble are Ej Raymond as Agnes the mother; Ricci McLeod as the groom Edward; Irene Macdougall as neighbour Eileen, waitress and Doris the tramp; Alison Halstead as Alma and Diana the tramp; Millie Turner as Vicky the wife of Leonardo; Miles Mitchell as Leonardo; Ann Louise Ross as Shirley and Amy Conachan as Olivia the bride.