A theatre in a tunnel under the Waterloo railway may not seem like a place where you will experience some of the best acting and most thrilling stories. Yet this is an ignorant misjudgement when it comes to the production of Blood Wedding at the Waterloo East Theatre, an experience of fringe theatre of the highest quality.
Set in Spain during 1931, the show is about a young girl who is set to marry a man with wealth and prestige simply to ease family feuds, and to please the traditionalists by becoming a submissive wife. Her bridegroom-to-be seems to adore her and wants to make a comfortable home with her, but we witness her second thoughts about going ahead with the marriage, and her aching need to please and love him in return. However, will she turn back to her forbidden and notorious first love as he makes his presence more than noticeable at the wedding? This story is filled with a whirlwind of emotions, with joy, beauty, hope, lust, anger and grief keeping you on the edge of your seat.
A dark auditorium, simple lighting and plain stage and set all establish an eerie atmosphere, which gives you a feeling in the pit of your stomach that this story will be a tragedy. The fact that it is all so plain means it does not cause a distraction from the acting and dialogue, enhancing how well everyone performs and how beautifully the words that they are speaking have been written — and the audience’s imaginations work with them.
Director Zoé Ford keeps the surreal, mystical feelings of Federico Garcia Lorca’s work through the use of physical theatre, drums on stage and singing. The way characters are physically presented made me feel like I was going through the trauma they are suffering, especially with help of the representations of Death, played by the superb Abigail Unwin-Smith, and The Moon, played by the engrossing Jennifer Shakesby. Even the rumbling of the trains going over the theatre creates a sinister effect, making the choice of venue for Hiraeth Artistic Productions arguably not a mistake.
For once I do not feel like I have to mention any single actors in depth, as the whole cast of this production of Blood Wedding are undeniably talented, without any noticeable flaws. All of them perform with power and passion, gripping everyone with the story from the start to the end, which did not need to arrive so soon. There are no noticeable chorus members and stars of the show, as every one of them seems big and crucial, working together to cement the tragic tale for all the audience.
The theatre is tiny and hidden, but the world inside is extravagant for fringe theatre and arguably more fulfilling than some West End shows. Go and see this enchanting play: you have three weeks. Be touched, be anxious with the characters, and come out happy and certain that you did not waste an evening.
Blood Wedding is playing at the Waterloo East Theatre until 7 July. For more information and tickets, see the Waterloo East Theatre website.