Blood Wedding by RoguePlay Theatre

Circomedia, Bristol, 30th October 2014

Blood Wedding is a classic tragedy by Spanish playwright, Federico García Lorca. RoguePlay, a theatre-circus group from Birmingham, have tried to remain faithful to the original play but at the same time adding a modern circus twist to the tale of betrayal, bitterness and blood. The result is excellent.

The Bride-To-BeLorna Meehan, co-director of the production, also plays the bridegroom’s mother, the main protagonist in RoguePlay’s rendition. Her performance is powerful and engaging as she portrays the anguish and hostility she has towards her son’s imminent wedding.

Before long we meet a source of the mother’s contempt, Leonardo (the only character named in the play), the former lover of the bride-to-be and member of the family that murdered the mother’s husband and other son. Leonardo and his wife, played by Israel Costa and Anna Simpson respectively, are introduced with the first instalment of aerial circus in the play. Leonardo exhibits his strength and masculinity on a black static trapeze while his wife dances on the floor before joining Leonardo in the air. The aerial display goes some way to express the unhappiness in Leonardo’s relationship with his wife which is confirmed by the violence Leonardo shows towards his wife as the two return to the ground.

We soon meet the bride-to-be, played by Kim Charnock, who also co-directed the play, and her maid (Anna Simpson). An exchange between the two, over opening the groom’s gift to the bride, provides a comic respite from the play’s darkness as they physically bicker over the gift in an almost slapstick style.

The bride-to-be performs a sorrowful dance in the blood red silks that are a near constant feature on the set, reminding us of the violent nature of the play. The aerial skills are impressive but more impact comes from the emotion imbued in the sequence.

One theme I took from RoguePlay’s adaption of this play that perhaps isn’t so prevalent in the original text is that of feminine strength. The bride-to-be is dressed in a costume that shows off her strong physique. The aerial acrobatics, apart from Leonardo’s trapeze section, are performed by the female characters and are an obvious display of strength, as well as grace and flexibility. There is also an acrobalance sequence featuring the bride-to-be and Leonardo. On more than one occasion the bride-to-be is the base supporting the large, muscular form of Leonardo, a role that would typically be performed by the man or larger of the acrobalance pair.

The MoonAs the title of the play suggests, the wedding doesn’t go so well and the tension builds for the climax of the show. The excellent musical score helps crank up the tension but Lorna Meehan’s metamorphosis into Death is an even bigger source of intensity. The moon, played by Anna Simpson, is also revealed in a moment of brilliance on an aerial hoop that was hidden until this point. The Moon and Death spectate and encourage as the bridegroom catches up with Leonardo are the two engage each other in a capoeira-inspired fight to the death.

Blood Wedding by RoguePlay is a powerful and fairly loyal version (so I’m told; unlike many others I didn’t study this play at college) of Lorca’s play that is well worth seeing if you get the chance. It’s definitely a piece of theatre that uses circus and dance as theatrical devices as opposed to a piece of circus-theatre, which, to me, is a circus show that uses a narrative for structure and cohesion, which is what I had expected. The surprise was a refreshing one and I think RoguePlay’s Blood Wedding will appeal not only to circus enthusiasts but theatre-goers as well. Hopefully it will also help people discover that circus is not just about clowns and lion-tamers.

RoguePlay's tour continues: 

- 11th & 12th November at Redbridge Drama Centre, London

- 14th November at Cast, Doncaster

- 18th November at The Castle, Northampton

- 20th November at The Maltings, Berwick-Upon-Tweed

For more information see RoguePlay's website