On 24 November 2017 Catherine Davies, IMLR Director, accompanied a group of nine A’ level students and their teacher Señorita Eloísa Amo del Río, from the Alexandra Park School (APS), North London, to see the Cervantes Theatre production of Federico García Lorca’s rural tragedy, La Casa de Bernard Alba, in the English version.
This was Lorca’s last play, completed in June 1936 two months before his assassination at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The play was also put on by the Cervantes Theatre in a Spanish version, which was almost sold out, but the students preferred to see it in translation for a first viewing. It’s interesting to note that many of the students spoke another language at home (Turkish, Arabic and Polish) or had a Spanish parent.
The theatre is small and cosy, the perfect venue for a small production requiring minimal stage props and scenery, in this case an austere black and white Andalusian interior. The acting was incredibly powerful, at times overwrought, and the sense of confinement and frustration almost overbearing. The sound effects were not what were expected. There were no Andalusian folk songs sung by the harvesters, but rather a strange, low moan that caused some consternation in the audience – presumably it aimed to express monstrous, pent-up sexual desire.
Below are some of the students’ opinions of the play and the production:
‘Attending the theatre to watch La Casa de Bernarda Alba has been an immensely intriguing and educational experience. Each actress has portrayed a powerful adaptation of their character, which has provided the audience with an undeniable comprehension of their situation, in relation to Lorca’s life. From beginning to end, the frustration and tension is intensified by the desire for freedom, in a suffocating and overbearing atmosphere imposed by Bernarda Alba. Watching Lorca’s play as a live adaptation has provided a realistic idea of how Lorca intended his work to be watched, and has definitely brought the characters and the setting to life. The theatre production has encapsulated the raw emotions of the characters’ situation, and how this has contributed to the overall tragedy of the play.’ Zoe Rock 13 E student.
‘Watching La Casa de Bernarda Alba in a theatre was a great experience. It really helped me understand the concept of the play better, and I have a clearer picture of what the characters are truly like. I believe that this will help me when I do my essays for the play. Thank you for the opportunity.’ Eda Melek Year 12 student.
‘The play was better than expected and even in such a little space, it was acted out very well and it was fun to watch and felt like you were in the room with the actual family.Very good.’ Dylan Lacey Year 12 student
‘The La Casa de Bernarda Alba trip to the Cervantes theatre was a trip that I enjoyed very much. The entire experience was a very fun trip because of the people on the trip but also because of the actual play itself. It turned out to be quite funny and better than we expected it to be. It was also very educational as the play we went to was in English, so it helped to me to consolidate my knowledge on the play and further my understanding of it. The play itself was also very good as the actresses were amazing. Watching’ La Casa de Bernarda Alba’ helped me gain more details about the play as it was easier to see the emotions expressed by each character and so I was able to understand the message of the play. It was a really great opportunity. I am glad I went. ¡lo pasé bomba! ’ Asmaa Abdelfattah Year 12 student.
‘Going to the Cervantes theatre to watch La Casa de Bernarda Alba was a truly eye-opening experience. Watching the play as opposed to just reading it has definitely helped my understanding by allowing my to really visualise the story of Bernarda and her daughters. Overall,I can say I enjoyed going to the Cervantes theatre and hope I can go back again soon to watch the Spanish version.’ Lottie Amin
Catherine Davies, Professor of Hispanic & Latin American Studies