The Meta Theatre has attempted to bring an ‘immersive’ new version of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding to the stage. However, the result is not so much an absorbing retelling of the Spanish tragedy, but the drowning of a classic text.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing a play up to date. And to be fair to Meta they have done a good job in grafting the setting of rural Spain onto a modern urban backdrop - swapping horses for motorbikes and farmland for scrap yards where appropriate. Credits also belong to costume designer, Saka Matsushita here.
As guests at the bride (Jade Anouka) and groom’s (Tai Lawrence) wedding, this production puts us up close and personal to the unfolding action. So, as you might expect audience participation plays a key role. I admit - this isn’t something I’m a big fan of. Continual singing and clapping has the effect of making me feel a bit (socially) awkward. That and I have the co-ordination skills of Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army. But with the willing on board, the atmosphere created is not so much joyous celebration as a nervous school disco shuffle, with some poor souls left uncomfortably swaying on stage while the play dances on.
Blood Wedding is your typical story of boy meets girl, boy marries someone else, girl marries someone else, boy and girl realise they’ve made a huge mistake and run away together. Cue the tragedy. What makes the text so arresting is the beauty of the language. Lorca intended to bring poetry to life through his drama. So when Leonardo (Marlon G Day) swaps Lorca’s lines from: ‘To keep still when we’re on fire is the worst punishment we can inflict on ourselves’ for: ‘To burn with desire and do nothing about it is the worst punishment we can inflict on ourselves’ some of the play's essence gets drained.
Not that this happens to all the great lines. The mother of Leonardo (Naomi Wirtner) manages to deliver some of the most famous speeches with poise and gravitas. On the whole though, the rest of original text gets muffled through, I’m sorry to say, overacting. Some of the cast members make EastEnders look like an RSC production.