Saturday, 1 June 2002

Casa d'Alba, June 1, 2002

 By Federico Garcia Lorca  
 School of Drama, Victorian College of the Arts Studio 45 Sturt St
June 1 to 11, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Federico Garcia Lorca's  play, Casa d'Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) is written for six older women. This makes it all the more extraordinary that this production is so very successful. All six actors are very young graduating actors from Victorian College of the Arts.

Playing so far above one's age is difficult for professional actors but the exceptionally stylish and tasteful direction by Tanya Gerstle brings out a maturity and passion in these women that is inspiring.

Gerstle highlights the stillness, silence, the heat and sexual frustration of the women in Bernarda Alba's  house. She weaves amongst Lorca's dialogue, snatches of exotic flamenco and abstracted movement.

The production is beautiful both aesthetically and dramatically. The huge warehouse, designed by Danielle Harrison,  replicates a stone courtyard with distressed stone wall at the rear.

The whole is steeped in sepia tones enhanced by warm lighting ( Michael Jankie  that seeps through peepholes to the outside world. Under the voices lies an evocative soundscape by Jacqueline Grenfell.

The story takes lace after the death of Bernarda's husband. She incarcerates her four adult but unmarried daughters in her Spanish home.

The eldest, Angustias (Shelley Krape) is to marry the raffish young Pepe le Romero,.Adela, (Ming-Zhu Hii), the youngest sister, is already Pepe's secret lover.

Yet another love-starved sister, Martiro,( Karissa Lane) is infatuated with Pepe, the man we never see.

A calmer fourth sister, Magdalena, ( Suzannah McDonald) and an old servant, Poncia,  (Anica Koprivec) watch the tragedy unfold. The stage is infused with sexual repression and sexuality.

The performances are strong from all six women. However, Melissa Chambers) as Bernarda is exceptional. She plays the matriarch with composure and stateliness and a powerful vocal and physical quality.

McDonald is engaging and versatile as both Magdalena and the mad grandmother. Koprivec plays the wise servant with great humour and earthiness.

This is a delightful production of a passionate and provocative play.

By Kate Herbert

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