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The House of Bernarda Alba

By Federico Garcia Lorca

Royal Exchange Theatre, 7 February 2017

There are moments where the language sings.

As when one woman addresses another’s passion for a man by observing: ‘I can see how you drink up his blood with your eyes’. And you would expect as much in a work by Lorca, the poet of duende.

Kathryn Hunter gives a strong performance as the proud matriarch of a dissolute family. Alison Halstead is her punchy, bloody-minded servant. The play was most effective when they were on stage and engaged in combative conversations.

One problem with the play is that a lot of the action (too much, in my view) takes place off stage, though whether this is due to Lorca’s craft or this particular version – an overreliance on audio description, say – I am unsure at the time of writing. Anyway, in theatre I don’t really want to be told what has happened. I want to see it. Otherwise, you might as well have a narrator on stage, as in children’s plays. And of course many forms of theatre have no need for language at all.

The House of Bernarda Alba is showing at the Royal Exchange until 25 February, further details can be found here.

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