Gareth Jandrell’s new adaptation of Blood Wedding, originally written in 1933 by Spanish playwright Lorca, completes The Faction’s repertory season at the New Diorama Theatre. Using one ensemble of 13 actors to rotate nightly between performances of Fiesco and Three Sisters andBlood Wedding, the latter is a triumph of true ensemble theatre.
The play, which is known by many as a classic tragedy of love, violence, and death, is recreated with such originality that it more closely resembles performance art than classical theatre. Director Rachel Valentine Smith breaks from traditional storytelling methods in the piece, using sound, movement, music (composed by Thomas Whitelaw), sand and man-made noise to play integral roles creating a world that pulsates with emotion.
The story is told using a bare minimum of props and no set, using a large square made of sand to denote the boundaries of the stage. But calling the production minimal doesn’t seem accurate – lighting design by Martin Dewar manages to create different worlds, and the ensemble’s ability to create powerful mood and imagery not only fills the void of a traditional set but also transcends the need for one.
The ensemble is mostly present onstage throughout the whole show, playing specific roles, creating different moods while playing instruments and making other sounds, and watching attentively while sitting around the sand-drawn boundary of the stage. The ensemble presence is powerful both in enhancing the material and in highlighting the immense talent of everyone involved. While this re-envisioning is certainly unique, it never feels contrived, and its uninhibited artistry is effective on both aesthetic and emotional levels.
While every actor in the piece is valuable, Anna-Maria Nabirye as Mother, a woman who is marrying off her only living son while still grieving the deaths of her husband and older son, is a shining standout. Her role is the most demanding, and her passionate performance is one of achingly raw pathos and emotion. From the opening scene until the tragic end, her character’s grief and constant reflections about a world torn apart by violence provide a gripping and emotional narrative.
The Faction’s creative re-interpretation of Lorca’s classic tragedy breathes a new and refreshing life into a classical piece. Productions like these prove that classical theatre can remain relevant, powerful and creative, without slipping into overdone conventions that have been recycled over and over throughout the years. This production of Blood Wedding overwhelmingly proves that “classical” and “traditional” don’t need to go hand-in-hand, and The Faction’s commitment to inventive repertory work is sure to continue to gain respect and notability in the London theatre scene.
Blood Wedding is playing at The New Diorama Theatre until 23 February. For more information and tickets, see www.newdiorama.com