UWC Mahindra College monthly newsletter

Sunday, April 1, 2012

La Casa De Bernarda Alba - theatre season 2012

Arriving at La Casa the audience is confronted by a wake outside the door of Wada 1 House 3.  This was surprisingly affecting.  

We were ushered past the mourning relatives and the well-dressed corpse into the house and then out to the back courtyard, from which vantage point we could watch the subsequent action through the windows, which make up one entire wall. Here, we were served water by hooded servants dressed, like the bereaved relatives, entirely in black (Rolando and Avaneesh). This staging idea couldn’t have been more appropriate; heightening as it did, the steamy confinement of the women of the house and of their disproportionate passions. One almost felt like a voyeur, so intimate was the relation to the drawing room scene.

At the opening, there was a particularly tender dynamic between Maria and Ainhoa setting a homely mood, an incongruous ground to the frenzied relationships later revealed. As feelings warmed so did the actors’ performances - well done to Clara, in this repect, (who was acting in her third play in as many languages!), Sara surprised us with her emphatic portrayal of Bernarda, and Vanessa impressively passionate as the young girl whose final suicide brought us all full circle - to the death slab outside the door, on our way out. This circularity pressed home the sense of inevitability and futility that haunt the drama and really left a sadness with the audience for these women, so tragically oppressed by a world entirely defined in relation to the overbearing significance of men in their lives (first the dead patriarch and then the shared idol - Pepe), a significance so total that we don’t even need to meet those men to feel oppressed by it ourselves.

A judicious sprinkle of English lines helped to point the non-Spanish-speaking audience through the rapid dialogue, and I thought this had been very carefully and tastefully achieved to allow for an uninterrupted flow in the text while letting the outsider in to the story. It also allowed me to share some of the key moments of comic irony too. And the night we went, the melodrama of shared desires (especially exaggerated in the case of the grandmother played by Oscar!) lent a farcical dimension to the play’s sudden denouement. 

It was of course a very cut-down version of the Lorca play, lasting only half an hour, and in this it only marginally fell short of the average length of plays in Theatre Season 2012. In this case, as in general, it proved a winning formula – short, swift and to the point, full of lively and feeling performance, this was an unforgettable little production.

Benedict Clark
Head of Aesthetics

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