On the face of it, Poppy Burton-Morgan's take on Federico García Lorca's Blood Wedding looks eminently promising.
Audience members are welcomed into the theatre by a glass of punch, handed out by the father of the bride. The grotty cellar that is the Southwark Playhouse is now a bright, festive space ready to celebrate a marriage. As the play opens, the audience is taught a ditty and prepared to sing along later.
But it is not long before things go wrong. The characters are introduced too steadily, with little depth. On her wedding day, the bride is inexplicably moody; we assume it is connected to the appearance of the grumpy Leonardo, an old flame. Between them, animosity fizzles but we are not shown why – it is just there, artificial. Meanwhile, the groom's mother worries that her boy will get caught up in the gang warfare that has slain her husband and elder son – yet the script is such that she sounds like a moaning mum rather than someone with a genuine, justified concern.
The characters talk in metaphors and attempt lyrical language. However, it is often empty and devoid of meaning – a wobbly reflection of Lorca's original poetry. Neither is it applied to their situations, which Burton-Morgan tries to do with the play's violence: in its nod towards knife crime, this production invokes a sketch of London's gang scene, shoe-horned in to force the play into being relevant. Instead it comes off as shoddy. Finally, the endgame violence is not tragic (it was obvious from the beginning); the tragedy is that a handful of decent actors and an innovative attempt at audience immersion are let down by a weak revision of a canonical text.
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