Posts Tagged ‘Mia Soteriou’

This was Lorca’s last play, written in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. It remained unperformed for over ten years and wasn’t seen on stage in Spain for almost 30 years. Some believe it was a prophetic metaphor for the tyranny Franco was about to unleash.

Recently widowed Bernarda Alba is presiding over a more personal tyranny, with her mother and five daughters relentlessly bullied and virtually imprisoned. An offstage character is the subject of the attentions of two of the daughters, betrothed to the one with the inheritance (though I’m not sure I understand why she alone is an heiress) and subject of the obsessive attentions of another.

Adapter Emily Mann and director Bijan Sheibani have relocated the play from Spain to Iran and this does help a modern audience identify with the situation, both the personal tyranny and the tyranny outside the walls of the house. The scene where c.30 women in black (20 ‘extras’!) are facing Mecca and praying rams this home. The problem with Lorca’s play is that the first 80% is spent establishing the backgound and creating the oppressive atmosphere which leads to the tragic conclusion; this lack of balance and pace is its weakness. 

Bunny Christie has created an evocative, claustrophobic setting ‘behind the walls’, aided by a superb soundscape from Dan Jones. You really do get a clear understanding of what it must be like living in these circumstances.

The acting throughout is impressive. Shohreh Aghdashloo has great presence as Bernarda. Jane Birtish and Mia Soteriou are excellent as housekeeper and maid, and the actresses playing all five daughters create five very different characters, each of which is completely believable.

It’s not a great play, fascinating but badly paced and somewhat depressing (though it does have moments of humour), but this is a very good production which drew me into the world of Bernarda’s family and the tyranny more than any other.

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