Blood Wedding

STC Wharf 1, August 5, 2011

 Death haunts every word of Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. It hangs in the air, waiting to break upon the characters like red rain. There is no suspense about it; rather it has all the inevitability of ritual, played over and over, darkening lives, but also intensifying them.

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Holly Fraser & Julia Ohannessian. Photo by Brett Boardman

 A welcome respite from the naturalism plaguing Australian stages, the 1933 play provides unfamiliar challenges for the cast. Director Iain Sinclair’s translation stays true to Lorca’s arch tone, so the glides into verse seem just a deepening of the mostly nameless characters’ ritual.

 The setting remains Andalucian (with flamenco guitar from Andrew Veivers), albeit with Australian colloquialisms in the translation. Lorca’s work withstands this dichotomy because its core is its duende: intensity in the dance with death. While Sinclair’s production truly seethes with this passion only intermittently, it does catch the brooding inevitability of blood, resulting from a mismatched wedding.

 The luminous Bride (Sophie Ross) marries the Groom (Kenneth Spiteri), despite drowning in an ocean of lust for the married Leonardo (Yalin Ozucelik). The men’s violent end occurs off stage, Lorca’s real protagonists being his women, ably served by Sinclair’s ensemble.

 Towering over these is Leah Purcell’s bereaved, embittered Mother of the Groom. If her performance is too volatile early on – all the characters’ fury could have been more menacing by being quieter – she is riveting in the finale. Sinclair has astutely altered this so she directly impales the audience on the barbs of her anguish, rather than in dialogue with her Neighbour. The latter is one of three roles Lynette Curran renders with exemplary deftness.

 Sinclair lapses, however, in having Holly Fraser’s Girl blood-soaked in Act Three. There should be no horror elements in Lorca’s play. That is like using an axe in a bullfight.

 Rufus Didwiszus’ suitably austere set’s only decoration is a death device: an ultraviolet insect-zapper. For the woodland scene he and Luke Ede (costumes) create a nightmare of masks and dead leaves, capped by a medieval-looking, malevolent Moon (Fraser). Damien Cooper’s lighting inflates the mythology with looming shadows.

 The early tug-of-war between naturalism and ritual is uneasy, but in Act Three Lorca’s poetic spirit surges free from the gravitational pull of reality. The results will not be quickly forgotten.