Blood Wedding - Byre Theatre, St Andrews, 22 Apr 2009 (3 stars)

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Glasgow Student Theatre
On The Rocks arts festival, St Andrews

It is, perhaps, slightly ironic that Federico Garcia Lorca’s renowned tragedy, Blood Wedding, was performed in the sleepy, traditional town of St. Andrews, for the play is a vivid portrayal of the restrictions of conventional societies, as well as a tragedy of missed love. The central characters, Leonardo and the Bride, are passionately in love, yet Leonardo has married elsewhere and the Bride, in turn, is betrothed. The play climaxes with their inevitable elopement on the Bride’s wedding day and the horrific consequences of their actions.

There is a fierce debate between critics over whether Lorca is attacking the conventions of Spanish society alone or if he has more universal implications. This particular production certainly captured the feeling of the blistering Spanish summer and quaint village life, but the cast’s refusal to alter their natural accents expanded the scope of criticism onto all traditional societies.

The dynamic and innovative style of Blood Wedding was as well-received in St. Andrews, as it was on its first performance in 1933 in Madrid. The audience entered the Studio Theatre to find the cast already seated in a semi-circle on stage, dressed in black, with coloured ties to symbolize family alliances. As Lorca had insisted, the play incorporated singing, chanting, clapping and poetry. It is often difficult to recreate such an artistic and stylized production without bordering on the pretentious, but Glasgow Student Theatre did a fine job. Their use of movement around the stage was highly effective and by employing different levels, the performance was slick and professional.

Occasionally words were mumbled, and the Bride in particular was difficult to understand. However, she – as well as the rest of the company – were expressive and convincing in their individual roles. The first half was so powerfully emotive, and the audience so enthralled, that the lights for the interval came on without us even noticing. The impressive use of movement was continued into the second half and the knife battle between Leonardo and the Bride’s husband-to-be was surprisingly effective, particularly with the accompaniment of haunting singing. It was a shame therefore, that the play began to lose pace after this, hampered by the tendency of the actors to mutter their lines.

Despite this however, it was a fresh and exciting performance and the Glasgow Student Theatre should be congratulated for their artistically-innovative portrayal.

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