revew: Graeae – Blood Wedding
Federico Garcia Lorca/
adptd. David Ireland/
dir. Jenny Sealey/
I’m not familiar with the original Lorca, but that’s irrelevant.
I’m not overly familiar with Graeae’s previous productions, I know that they are a company creating theatre which is accessible, but that’s not giving me much to go on.
I’ve seen productions with BSL interpreters before but that’s nothing like what this production is.
I’m writing this revew in a darkened room listening to white noise but you don’t need to know that.
I’m struggling to decide what is relevant for you to know before I begin this revew, but it’s not my job to stumble at that hurdle, it’s my job to push through it.
Blood Wedding is about lust, love, blood. Blood Wedding is about passions, plural. Blood Wedding is relationships, estrangements, resentment, love, blood, lust, fear, family, life, death. What this production did is explode. I’m confident in saying that Graeae’s Blood Wedding exploded the play, the theatre, and our experience of digesting both.
Olivia is marrying Edward. Lee is married to Vicky. Olivia is fucking Lee. Lee is fucking Olivia. Lee is leaving Vicky. Vicky is pregnant. Vicky knows about Olivia and Lee. The wedding goes ahead.
Blood Wedding occurs in fragments. The letters O, E, L & V are onstage throughout the scattered action. Surtitles are projected onto sections of brick wall which frame the action. Actions which are not described in the dialogue are narrated from the edge of the stage by members of the cast. Agnes, Edward’s mother, who is profoundly deaf, signs her lines.
These are, for want of a better word, the ‘rules’ of Graeae’s Blood Wedding. It establishes itself with a very simple visual, audio and physical language. And within that language, it tears its characters apart.
There is a palpable space surrounding every character on stage. Not only in their selfish and obscure treatment of each other, but in the way they appear to us. Every word, every action, is communicated multiple times at once. The movement, the dialogue, the translation, the audio description, happens in front of us and simultaneously dissects itself. Everything on stage is at once present as a whole and exposed as a series of disparate themes and characters flung together into a tragic action, spiraling toward death.
And what this whole production exposes most of all for me is how arbitrary all the conventions holding these characters together are. Marriage, family, revenge, love. Everything falls apart the instant Olivia and Lee’s adultery enters the scene. Even the conventions by which we, audience, come here to take in the play of misery are questioned. I take it for granted that I come to the theatre to watch, to listen. But, obviously, this play doesn’t need me to be able to do both. By being sighted and hearing, I miss some aspects and gain others. I am experiencing this play as a fragment of the whole. Everyone is.
And at the same time as exploding everything into elements and essences and stripped-back obviousnesses, something Blood Wedding does incredibly well is compress all these aspects back into a coherent whole. This play is doing so many things at once, so well it infuriates me how empty the audience is. There’s something very literal in how these disparate scenes are consistently grounded with freeze frames, a family portrait, a wedding photo, or selfie, but always a flash of light, and a photograph. The stage is flattened into an image, a tableau. Everything holds together. Until everything falls apart.
The whole play is a spiral of foreshadowing. It seems every moment serves only to set up for the final scenes of blood and death. But I was laughing throughout. At its most tense, the final catastrophe is delayed and delayed and delayed by two ‘lady tramps’, in a dual-minded dream of a stream of two consciousnesses that somehow ties the whole play in a bow. This is a production that is always fully aware of what it’s doing. It’s playing, this whole production is playing and laughing in the face of capital T ‘Theatre‘. It’s base, it’s lewd, it’s gorgeously designed, acted, everything. It’s so Clever. And deadly.
This production is a forensic study, an autopsy, delivering every scrap of evidence before dropping the corpse in front of you.
Fantastic theatre. Drop everything, go see it.