Review - Blood Wedding at the Young Vic
In an exchange in a programme note for this vivid, startling new production of Blood Wedding, Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah and guest director Yaël Farber recall their first discussion of a possible collaboration at the theatre, they exchanged lists of plays they wanted to do. This Lorca classic, written in 1932 and first performed in 1933, was at the top of both of their lists. In an act of directorial generosity, Kwei-Armah yields the wish to do it to Farber; and she has repaid that faith with an emotionally precise production that is highly stylised and stately, yet full of rich and savage beauty.
Based on the true story of a man who was murdered after trying to run away with a bride on the eve of her wedding, there's an oppressive undercurrent of real dread yet inevitability in the play; and Farber amplifies its immediacy and dramatic charge by relocating it to Ireland in a new version of the play translated by playwright Marina Carr. In another programme note, Farber says, "Marina is a lightning conductor for pulling the visceral charge of language right through words and black into the earth where that force belongs."
The earthy rootedness of that evocative use of language is matched by the extraordinarily visceral physical language and clarity Farber brings to her staging that's at once oppressive and severe. As a young, newly married bride decides to flee with her former lover, the production is like a cross between West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet, powered by the harsh musicality of its language, projected in the lilting beauty of the Irish accents it is spoken in, and a staging of harsh, illuminating beauty, set in an earthy arena designed by Susan Hilferty that has the audience seated in six steeply-raked banks all the way around it. I've never seen the Young Vic in this configuration before, and it feels thrillingly intimate.
There's ethereal music composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge, vividly sung a cappella by Thalissa Teixeira's Moon, and wonderfully inhabited, uninhibited performances from a cast that includes Aoife Duffin as the bride and David Walmsley and Gavin Drea as the men competing for her, with Olwen Fouéré as the ferocious white-haired mother of the groom.
Photo credit: Marc Brenner