The House of Bernada Alba, Cervantes Theatre

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by guest reviewer Lara Alier

It has always surprised me how popular Lorca is in the UK.

Last night I went to the Cervantes Theatre, where plays are performed both in English and in Spanish. The first thing that catches my eye was the minimalist set design; the wall shows a weaved white pattern and the red floor mimicked big floor tiles.

The story follows Bernarda Alba, who locks her five daughters inside the house to mourn the death of their father. No one is allowed to wear anything but black, and no one can be seen talking to a man. Appearances need to be kept.

Nevertheless, a man disrupts the quiet and isolated world Bernarda has created. The youngest daughter fiercely fights to own her body whilst Martyrio suffocates her desires in her shawls. She is always accompanied by Amelia, who is a kind and cautious soul. Angustias sweetly breathes through her loneliness, whilst the Magdalena is an outburst of frustration poison and naked vulnerability.

Youngest daughter Adela (Maite Jauregui) fiercely fights to own her body whilst Beth Smith as Martirio suffocates her desires in her shawls. Middle child Amelia, who is a kind and cautious soul, accompanies her younger sister wherever she goes. The actors playing the two eldest daughters polar opposites in their behaviour. Angustias sweetly breathes through her loneliness, whilst the Magdalena is an outburst of frustration poison and naked vulnerability.

Every time the women hear a man passing by their home, there is a subtle dance of their repressed sexuality. The composition of the space is really daring, especially the opposing parallels created when the mother and the old maid sit next to each other sharing confidentialities. The Lorquian language is beautifully used and it’s a very yet accessible play, showcasing bright and powerful actresses on stage. Perhaps I’m not so surprised after all.

The House of Bernada Alba runs through 3 March.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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