Pulsing with the atmosphere of an instant classic and performed with more heart than most independent theatre, UTS Backstage’s Blood Wedding opened last weekend to an eager crowd. Originally a folk tragedy written by Frederico Garcia Lorca in 1933, the show had a stinging relevance to the imagined dividers we place between parts of ourselves, or between ourselves and others. Simply described, this story is about complicated, vulnerable women and inactive, hopeless men. As a young woman wrestles with her potential loss of self-determination and burning desire for love on the day of her wedding, she finds herself torn between two morally different men, despite being just as blank, dim-witted and ignorant as one another.
It is too easy to see this production as feminist, with women taking up a majority of the cast, delivering powerful performances, and portraying some of the most realistic conflicts we all have in our hearts. However, the show does this at the expense of holistic personalities and complexities in it’s male characters and some female secondary characters. Scattered through the performance were moments where the identities being portrayed felt forced and empty. While the writing could be heavily to blame for this issue, the show also lacked a sense of cohesive genre and tone which cannot be as easily forgiven. Regardless, director Samuel Lucas Allen did a remarkable job appropriating Blood Wedding to a fresh and unprepared audience. The intensity of the circumstances developed steadily and shone through the scenes in what was clear executive direction from the crew.
The performers in this show were clearly giving all their best abilities to bring the dated story to modern life and there was no noticeable weak link in the cast. However, Rizcel Gagawanan as the Bridesgroom’s Mother was a stand out during the weekend, who’s strong and skilled performance made others’ look dull and amateur in comparison. Rizcel’s powerful stage presence and spine-chilling deliverance was impossible to look away from. She captivated, she moved, and she gave the script a sense of fire whenever stakes were dropped. Bringing to the forefront of a complex character the constant, unforgettable pain of a childless mother is no easy feat, especially not for a young actress, but Rizcel achieved this beautifully.
Honourable mentions also go to Tom Crotty, the lovable and heartbreaking Bridesgroom who contrasted well against Simon Croker‘s Leonardo, and deserved much better than his typical drama-theatre fate. The traditional comedic father figure was brought to life by Gus Wylie and his fleeting moments in scene were a delight to witness. Eleanore Knox gave a transformative performance that few serious actors could achieve, expertly balancing absurd and disturbing to captivate an audience on the edge of their seat. Last but not least, Alia Seror-O’Neill delivered one of the most multi-faceted and flawed depictions of a woman to date. The Bride’s fight or flight response to a fleeting independence and raw human desires were universally understood thanks to her professionalism and clarity in one of Backstage’s most impressive characters to date.
The most outstanding element of the production occurs before the show begins – the physical design of the show. Instantly intriguing a crowd due to the direct atmosphere, Head Set/Costume Designers Ella Butler and Kyle Jonsson did a fantastic job. The aesthetically pleasing nature of the visuals as a whole with the play’s context and likely purpose made the other less impressive elements of the show such as misplaced lighting or natural performance hiccups unimportant and almost unnoticeable.
The show itself was the theatre group’s fourth production of the year and their largest one to date. Despite it’s run being finished, Blood Wedding was proof that young theatre-makers in this city have the passion and ability to make rework relatively unknown shows into greatness that can reach expansive audiences and journey further into the darkness of human souls than other productions would dare.
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