Review: Blood Wedding at Omnibus Theatre

Federico García Lorca’s rural tragedy Blood Wedding gets a distinctly urban makeover in George Richmond-Scott’s powerful new adaptation. The production moves the action to modern day London, which allows it to touch on topical issues like Brexit and knife crime – but by keeping the characters Spanish, it doesn’t stray too far from the play’s roots, and the second act in particular (the third in Lorca’s text) retains very effectively the other-worldly atmosphere of the original.

The story centres around three Spanish families. As the widowed Mother (Maria de Lima) struggles to come to terms with the forthcoming marriage of her only Son (Federico Trujillo), the Bride (Racheal Ofori) wrestles with her passion for old flame Leo (Ash Rizi). He’s now unhappily married to her cousin, the Wife (Miztli Rose Neville), and also happens to be a member of the family that murdered the Mother’s husband. When all the characters are brought together at the wedding celebrations, a tragic and violent chain of events is set in motion from which nobody will escape unscathed.

Federico Trujillo and Racheal Ofori (Bride and Groom) low res. pic credit Nick Arthur Daniel
Photo credit: Nick Arthur Daniel

While the first act draws us into the family drama, the second, much shorter act has a very different style, as the characters become the playthings of forces far more powerful than themselves. Here the Moon, played by Yorgos Karamalegos as a sinuous and sinister figure, stalks the city streets, where he’s joined by Death in the form of a homeless woman (Maria de Lima) and together the two conspire to ensure the final confrontation takes place. The stark contrast in tone, which encompasses everything from language to physical style to lighting and sound, makes these final brutal scenes feel almost dream-like in comparison to the very naturalistic opening act.

George Richmond-Scott has, for the most part, remained true to Lorca’s plot – albeit with a few characters cut – but updated it for the 21st century. So a horse becomes a motorbike, and a vineyard turns into a restaurant; there are frequent references to the impact of Brexit and the possibility of returning home to Spain. Though this inevitably means a little of the poetry is lost, there are still moments where Lorca’s familiar words shine through, such as in the Mother’s obsessive horror of knives (which, ironically, could have been written yesterday) and in the Bride’s final passionate plea for, if not forgiveness, then at least understanding. His presence is also strongly felt in Camilla Mathias’ haunting live music, which, as with the rest of the play, offers an original take on cante jondo, the traditional folk music that played such an important part in Lorca’s life and work.

Camilla Mathias and Maria de Lima (Friend and Mother) low res PIC CREDIT Nick Arthur Daniel
Photo credit: Nick Arthur Daniel

In a play that places a strong emphasis on the role of women, Maria de Lima stands out with her performance as the Mother. At first easy to dismiss as a bossy, overprotective matriarch – almost, at certain moments, a comic figure – she ultimately becomes the emotional heart of the play, and her final scene is almost unbearable to watch in its tragic intensity. Racheal Ofori and Miztli Rose Neville are similarly impressive as the Bride and the Wife, who are both trapped into unwanted marriages by the pressure of family and society to secure their futures, but who deal with their situation in quite different ways.

The tragic conclusion of Blood Wedding – which was inspired by real events – serves as a powerful reminder of the futility of violence, whether in 1930s Spain (Lorca himself was executed by Nationalist forces at the start of the Spanish Civil War, when he was just 38 years old) or in 21st century London, where knife crime continues to increase at alarming rates. As we watch the surviving characters grieve, we can’t help but be struck by the pointlessness of the rivalry, social ambition and deception that have laid the foundations for so much devastating loss. In this respect, the play adapts very well to its new time period and physical setting – even though that may tell us more about the unchanging nature of humanity than we really want to know.

Can’t see the map on iPhone? Try turning your phone to landscape and that should sort it. I don’t know why but I’m working on it… 😉

Theatre round-up: 18 Aug 2015

These posts are gradually getting later and later in the week… I’ll try and get back on track for next week, but in the meantime here’s the round-up of the last hectic few days.

Blood Wedding

I was interested to see this adaptation of the classic Spanish play, having studied the text at A-Level (and then again at uni) but never seen it performed. The enjoyable production by Dreamcatcher Theatre at the Bread and Roses has all the drama and tragedy that I remember; it’s the tale of a doomed wedding, and its characters really don’t stand a chance from the start. The play was first performed in the 1930s and contains some pretty old school views on various issues, particularly gender roles, but it’s also strangely relevant at times to the world we live in today.

Blood Wedding review for LondonTheatre1

The Backward Fall

Part of the Camden Fringe, this play about two sisters packing up their childhood home after the loss of their mother to Alzheimer’s packs quite an emotional punch. The strained relationship between the sisters is convincing and well portrayed, and the play makes a powerful point about the ongoing impact of this life-changing condition, not just for the sufferer but for those around them as well. The Backward Fall, by Penny Productions, is based on stories, research and interviews with real people affected by Alzheimer’s, which only increases its power for the audience.

The Backward Fall review for LondonTheatre1


So much brilliance I don’t know where to start. Consolation, by Théâtre Volière, is funny, devastating and educational all at once. The unlikely friendship of a middle-aged woman who thinks she was a Cathar heretic in a former life, and a young re-enactor from the local visitors centre takes us on an emotional journey that spans several hundred years, and ends with a totally unexpected but brilliant twist. The cast are incredible and the set is simple yet ingenious. There are a couple of plot details I missed, but I’d happily head back to the Bridewell Theatre and do it all again (all three hours) to make sense of them – which just goes to show how good this play is.

Consolation review for LondonTheatre1

The Two Gentlemen of Verona / Hay Fever

Kent-based Changeling Theatre never disappoint; this year we enjoyed a double bill of Shakespeare and Noël Coward at the lovely Boughton Monchelsea Place. Changeling interpretations, directed by Rob Forknall, are always mischievous and full of humour, with a brilliant and adaptable cast who seem to be having the time of their lives. And a ridiculously cute dog, who got the biggest cheers of the day without actually doing anything.

Changeling review

Spirit of the dance

A spectacular show, featuring the Irish dancing made famous by the better-known Riverdance, but also including other dance styles too – flamenco, tap, ballet, and even a bit of the Highland Fling – Spirit of the Dance is colourful, energetic and entertaining. Besides the cast of eighteen dancers, this show at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford also welcomed special guests the Three Irish Tenors, who – while slightly detached from the rest of the show – get the audience singing along to a few crowd-pleasing classics while the dancers have a well-earned break.

Spirit of the Dance review for Dartford Living

This week's theatre

Next week’s theatre

Twelfth Night (Oddsocks) – Castle Cornet, Guernsey