The House of Bernada Alba - Review

Federico Garcia Lorca's great Spanish tragedy of sexual repression and rebellion in a house of mourning under the domination of a monstrous matriarch provided the New Venture with yet another opportunity to show off its superb ensemble playing. In a contemporary translation that provided plenty of humour to lighten the dark tale of the five daughters condemned to eight years of mourning we learnt of their frustration and the brooding tension between them. It was the absence of men from the house and the love of three of the daughters for the same man that led to the tragic finale.

The director, Martin Nichols, is to be congratulated, not only on his work on the translation, but also for extracting such terrific performances from his cast. Pat Boxall, the matriarch Bernarda Alba, was chilling as she strove to control her children and their emotions. There were too many excellent performances to praise all the cast individually but I would like to mention Alex Childs' heart-rending portrayal of the rebellious Adela and Sheelagh Baker who provided much of the comedy as the down to earth, wily housekeeper and confidante to Bernarda. I was also impressed with Alexis Hills who, although playing the small role of the servant, gave a consummate demonstration of acting with her body language conveying the exhausted drudgery that was her life.

There were, however, two aspects of the production that I disagreed with and felt marred the excellence of the evening. The choice of music used was wrong. I know that the intention was to give the play a contemporary edge but it jarred. To my mind the piece cried out for guitar and the plaintiff Spanish lament albeit that it might be considered a cliché. Likewise it was a mistake to have members of the audience seated on the stage. For some plays this would not be a problem but for this one it broke the mood of bleakness and isolation that the daughters were trapped in.

For those of you who did not see this production, you missed a truly theatrical treat.

Barrie Jerram