first_imgA classic Spanish text with an East Enders plot? Surely not! When I went to see House of Bernada Alba, Federico Garcia Lorca’s last play, I feared it might be dull. But this was not the case – the lively production owes much to the translator of the Spanish play, Oxford student Sophie Ivatts, who seeks to undo previous preconceptions of the play as gloomy and dull.Departing somewhat from the original text, Ivatts hopes to make the dangers of an insular society and tyrannical force relevant to contemporary audiences. The plot could almost be out of Eastenders – family feuds, love affairs, jealousy and tragedy – yet the complexity of human nature is also depicted.Set in a remote village  of  Andalucia during the 1930s, the tyrannical Bernarda Alba imposes an eight-year sentence of mourning upon her five daughters following her husband’s death. But eldest daughter Augustius has inherited her father’s fortune, and thus attracts the attention of Pepe el Romano. However the youngest daughter Adela is secretly sleeping with Pepe, and is desperate to escape the oppressive force of her mother. The play centres around an exploration of sibling rivalry and the tragic consequences of family discord.The ambitious set design is based on a monastic cloister, which reflects the oppressive atmosphere in which the Bernarda daughters live, locked away from the outside world. Maria Josefa, Bernarda’s mother, is reminiscent of the madwoman in the attic. The image of Bernarda’s daughters standing around their grandmother, they in black, she in white, conveys the feeling that they are very much trapped.Strong performances from the five daughters ensure that the family tensions beyond the spoken lines are well demonstrated. Both Ellen Buddle (Bernarda Alba) and Julia Effertz (Maria Josefa) give excellent performances, although both face the difficulty of portraying a character older than themselves. More work on posture and movement would have been beneficial. The vibrant performances of Lakshmi Krishnan and Kristina Kempster as servants allow us insight into the thoughts and emotions of Bernarda Alba’s servants, poised on the edge of the regime. The performance is strong, but I wonder whether the audience will come away with the sense of hope and female empowerment which Sophie Ivatts intends. Even using her own interpretation of the original script, she is confined to Lorca’s story, which seems inescapably tragic. By Emily Damesicklast_img