Assassinated by the Fascists in 1936, Federico Garcia Lorca wrote Dona Rosita in 1935 although apparently the idea had been gestating for years, the play inspired by the description of the flower Rosa Mutabilis which serves as a metaphorical counterpart for Lorca's eponymous heroine who we first see as a vivacious young woman, slowly wilting as the long wait for her errant fiance erodes her vitality and hopes over the course of twenty-five years. A beguiling tragi-comedy that examines the fate of single women in provincial Spanish society of the 1930's, Dona Rosita satirises the society it scrutinises so effectively but also evokes pathos, not just for the forsaken Rosita herself but for all the women abandoned to unfulfilling lives in a world then defined by marriage.
Opening in the twilight years of the nineteenth century, Dona Rosita is a girl growing up in Granada, stability provided by her devoted aunt and uncle, ably assisted by their outspoken housekeeper. Engaged to her cousin her commitment to him remains unwavering, though her loyalty is unmerited. In a series of scenes that move from the broadly comic to the painfully poignant, we see the fate of other Spanish spinsters, their humdrum lives given dramatic contrast by the flirtatious presence of the Manolas, swirling into view in a riot of bold colour that echoes the first flush of a rose in full bloom.
Capably directed by Auriol Smith, the production boasts strong performances all round with a special mention for Sheila Reid and Anna Carteret who are wonderful as the aunt and housekeeper whose perpetual sparring cannot mask their devotion, both to one another and to Dona Rosita.