"Tragedy Of Power And Virginity"
by Saul Reichlin for remotegoat on 28/06/11

Lorca's masterpiece of domination and repressed desire was completed only months before his murder by the fascists he so provoked, and is widely accepted (although not by him) as the third in a Trilogy of the Spanish Earth, with Blood Wedding and Yerma.

This latest offering by the busy Theatre Collection, whilst full of the usual energy and apparent emotion, is an evening of hit and miss, and finally shows the company's modus vivendi of 'more is better' to be a false god. Some rather beautiful tableaux were achieved when the action lent itself to this, but many scenes were allowed to slip through the net.

In a play bursting with options, very few symbolic choices were employed. There was little to remind anyone of the oppressive heat, and I do not remember the tolling of bells, the most important symbol of all. However, the trusty Lord Stanley window shutters were put to very good use, exposing the convenient church across the road, and literally letting in the light (at the matinee, anyway) on the women in their respective prisons, leaving the household in semi dark. Sometimes, though, while some characters on stage were sensitively lit, others in the same scene were so poorly lit as to appear to be in black and white. If this was intentional it is deserving of high praise, pointing up, perhaps, the lifelessness of the women's existence. However, it seemed an accidental lighting coup, as repeatedly staging was clumsy, with cast actually standing facing the audience, talking to, but not looking at each other, sometimes in an almost straight line.

Lorca forces upon these women a life absent of men. The resulting obsessions open the door to some enviable acting opportunities for the nine women in the cast, and the evening was aided by some moving performances. Sadly, as Bernarda (the bear, and a symbol of the fascism of the times), Vivienne Brown eschewed pride, honour and tradition, and produced an angry, unpleasant woman. But Rosemary Moreno's stoical and longsuffering Poncia was a study in unrequited loyalty, commanding respect both as her character and in her work.

Again lighting up Theatre Collection's stage, a rich and exciting performance was to be found in Cristina Lazaro's Adela, veering between competitive cruelty and rampant sexuality, at the expense of Anna Elena Pepe's sweet, sad Martirio. The triumphalism of Miss Lazaro's sexual conquest followed by her desolation at the apparent murder of her dreams was Shakespearean in its depth. Denise Moreno, who joined the cast after one rehearsal, produced a sensitive understanding of Amelia, but it was pure pleasure to watch Genny Vascotto, who superbly gave her granny Maria Josefa a touching and heartfelt believability. A performance to grace any stage.

With its policy of offering only masterpieces, the company has forced its way onto the fringe map of London, but it now owes its public a quality of production exhibiting a care worthy of the material.

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