The world of Lorca is naturally imbued with the essence of his native Andalusia, the aching sense of duende that characterises much of his work and at first sight, The Faction’s version of Blood Wedding inhabits a similar realm. Martin Dewar’s lighting casts a warmly Mediterranean haze, guitar strings are plucked from afar and the design is stripped back to a border of sand around the edge of the New Diorama’s stage which has been reconfigured into the round. And in the earthen tones of the costumes, the Cassandra-like Mother foretells a tale of woe between two long-feuding families which are soon to be joined in matrimony in an attempt to force a happy ending.
But the heady scent of sexual desire lingers between the wrong people, vengeance lies heavy in the air and there’s a price that must be paid as fate winds its unwieldy way across all concerned. And in their ensemble-led physicality, The Faction – directed here by Rachel Valentine Smith – cultivate the sense of hermetically-sealed community in all its inescapable oppressiveness, ever-present observers from the sidelines and participants in the rituals of marriage. And in the midst of the hustle and bustle, lead performances come shining through.
Derval Mellett’s Bride radiates internal chaos beneath her carefully composed exterior as her passions burn for Jonny McPherson’s impressively rugged Leonardo. And Anna-Marie Nabirye’s Mother scorches with a bitter fire, of anger and resignation of the blood-soaked consequences she knows they cannot avoid. And smaller roles impress too: Laura Freeman’s servant, Lachlan McCall’s father, the attention to detail really comes through. But Gareth Jandrell’s new adaptation isn’t always as clear as it could be, especially in some of the directorial choices and given this is a company all relatively similar in age, it is a curious choice of play given the importance of the different generations – The Faction’s stripped-back aesthetic not always helpful here.
And though the production starts off rooted in Spain, it doesn’t necessarily carry that Hispanic flavour through. Indeed the music has a folkloric quality that could be ascribed to the gypsies, and the interventions of the strapping Woodcutters and the Moon could come from a strange version of our own British countryside, an idea which takes flight with the striking embodiment of ‘Death as a beggar woman’ calling to mind something of The Wicker Man. This mythical twist makes the second half more engaging than the first despite its inherent strangeness, culminating in a focus on the women left behind as they play cat’s cradle scene and lament their men with desolate wails.
So an interesting interpretation, at least in the way that it played out in my head, and ultimately one of mixed success I think. But I have enjoyed being able to take in The Faction’s rep season for a second year and sincerely hope that this is a genuine annual institution in the making.