Radio review: Blood Wedding

“You have already thrown me away”

Ted Hughes’ reworking of Blood Wedding first aired in 2008 and won awards that year. It was re-broadcast as part of Radio 3’s season covering Lorca’s Rural Trilogy – this play, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba. Productions of Lorca’s work often search for the elusive spirit of the duende, that magical ingredient that brings out the chills, and that is markedly present here due to Pauline Harris’ astute direction. 

Rather than try and create a taste of Spain, Hughes and Harris focus on the rural, evoking the timeless spirit of folkloric traditions that transcends nations. So the tale of two feuding families, locked in a death spiral of conflict even as they celebrate a marriage that should be uniting their houses, could be anywhere, not just the Almerian mountains where Lorca set it, and a multitude of British accents thus don’t sound out of place.

Hughes’ interpretation from David Johnstone’s translation is just beautiful. Pragmatic in its nature, it veers towards the densely poetic in its use of language, somehow heightening the intensity of what is already a ferocious story. Barbara Flynn burns self-righteousness as the Mother who trusts no-on e and nothing, Sarah Smart’s enigmatic Bride caught between love and duty, even the smaller contributions of Andrea Riseborough as Leonardo’s discarded wife.

The strangeness of the final act fits in perfectly here too – the last time I saw the play, in Amsterdam natch, Death and the Moon had been excised – but their haunting presence makes sense here, prefiguring the tragic end to a brilliant production. 

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