Review: Blood Wedding, Young Vic

‘Marina is a lightning conductor for pulling the visceral charge of language right through words and back into the earth where that force belongs.’ This is how director Yaël Farber describes Marina Carr, the mind responsible for translating and adapting Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre into this masterpiece of rewriting: Blood Wedding. Carr pulls the charge of language back into the earth, through the floor of the theatre and into the audience’s feet: the theatre thrills and throbs with the energy of her translation.

This adaptation of Lorca is set in Andalusia County Offaly, and the relocation is seamless. The accents are Irish, the idiom is Irish, but the context is not laboured. The play feels so firmly set in its new location that there is no need to emphasise a particular time, or the intricacies of Irish landscapes. Thalissa Teixeira as Moon sings in Spanish, or she speaks the words of Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, her voice echoing around the stage with such passion and fettered power that the audience are fixated on her every breath; there is an admission here, I think, that some of the magic of this play, some of its atmospheric awe and terrible depth of feeling, can only be conveyed in Spanish. Sometimes, Carr seems to have decided, it is braver to accept the power of the original, rather than fighting and failing to translate.

Every actor in this performance holds their own. Olwen Fouéré plays a mother propelled by bitterness, her frankness chuckingly (and sometimes roaringly) funny; she manages innuendo with poise and subtlety. Gavin Drea’s uncontrollable passion as Leonardo is terrifying, but wonderful to watch as he stalks the stage topless he manages to achieve a captivating balance between vulnerable nakedness and hyper-masculine muscle. Scarlett Brookes plays Leonardo’s Wife with a crescendo of emotion that strikes right to the audience’s heart. Aoife Duffin as the Bride is wonderful from her very first appearance on stage, hips slanting and face disgruntled; her interactions with Leonardo embody with such nuance the conflicting passions of a woman who doesn’t want this, but doesn’t want the alternative either. She is caught, trapped, without escape: and I really believed that Duffin was being strangled by her wedding dress.

Farber’s direction in this play is pretty much perfect. Each movement leads naturally on from the next, and even the less realistic moments with harnesses and wires which make the characters fly above the stage (a genius way of representing a flight on horseback) make sense in the context of the story we see unfolding. There are no jolts.

Susan Hilferty’s set design also deserves the highest praise: it has three different formations based around a collapsing wall at the back of the stage, but you hardly notice the pieces moving. This set thrives off simple shapes and slickly folding pieces which create a feeling of complexity managed with grace and skill. The string of orange lights – representing branches of orange trees – which are lowered in the corners for the wedding scene are just one example of Hilferty’s flawless understanding of space and colour: the orange against the black is ominously cheerful, and just so compelling.

This whole production is effortless. Carr’s lines come so naturally to the actors that they don’t seem like scripted words; every movement is deliberate. The neatness of the colour scheme, the smoothness of the flying, and the slickness of the set transitions make us forget that this is the first week of performance. In this collaboration of Lorca and Ireland, Carr and Farber, everything makes sense.

Blood Wedding is playing the Young Vic until 2 November. For more information and tickets, visit the Young Vic website.