In Review

Blood Wedding review: a classic of doomed love

Blood Wedding, Young Vic: a classic of doomed love

“Marriage is no place for the weak.” That’s a line that all but sums up this dramatic reimagining of Federico García Lorca’s 1932 play Blood Wedding at London’s Young Vic theatre. In fact, if anything, the tone of this adaptation might even be heavier than that witty quip suggests.

It’s a classic story of doomed love, warring families, and inescapable bloodlines. As its translator - Irish playwright Marina Carr - says, it asks “the primal questions”. But it asks them through achingly lyrical and poetic prose.

Making a bold choice, Carr has set her translation of the 1932 Spanish play in a hybrid fictional landscape she describes as “Andalusia, County Offaly”. Despite holding on to certain Spanish customs and clothes in the play, the actors speak with Irish accents, with the exception of Thalissa Teixeira’s “Moon” and the mystical “woodcutters”. An omniscient deity-like figure, Moon appears between and during scenes to sing in haunting interludes – alongside music composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of Phoebe, for whom she composed music for the hit show Fleabag). 

Visually, too, the show is stunning from start to finish. Under Yaël Farber’s direction, it is filled with tableaux each more arresting than the last. Particularly memorable is the way Leonardo (Gavin Drea) simulates riding off on his white horse by whipping around the stage in what seems like slow motion, suspended from a cord. 

Olwen Fouéré is outstanding as the bitterly heartbroken mother, who, having lost her husband and first son to the violence between clans that goes back generations, seems to know all along what tragedy will unfold. Drea also gives a disquieting performance as the reckless Leonardo, but Aoife Duffin, as the bride, has a tendency to over-act. She is so outwardly sullen from the word go that her character lacks subtlety as the play hurtles her into ever-deeper pain. 

At certain moments, it feels as though Blood Wedding isn’t quite as moving as it should be. The high-octane drama – and relentless misery – of what is taking place on stage eventually starts to wash over you in dull waves. Part of that may be down to this fresh production’s occasional lack of clarity. But mostly it seems the brutality of the story is so unforgiving that the audience simply becomes desensitised to tragedy – which is perhaps the point. In this story, it is hatred, not love, that conquers all, and there was never anything to be done about it. 

Be warned, then: Blood Wedding is not an easy watch. It is, however, an undeniably powerful production, and one that is sure to stay with you, whether you like it or not.

Blood Wedding will be showing at the Young Vic until 2 November. Tickets here.

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