Stifling new staging of The Home of Bernarda Alba stars an impressive Harriet Walter

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The Home of Bernarda Alba

Nationwide Theatre, London

Three households; three basic dramas; three generational clashes. And three new approaches. First, to the Nationwide, the place The Home of Bernarda Alba has had a makeover in Rebecca Frecknall’s desolately highly effective manufacturing of Lorca’s tragedy.

No thick stone partitions or paved courtyards right here: in Frecknall’s staging, the household of determined girls are actually boxed in an enormous, icy mansion of small, tight rooms, with Merle Hensel’s teal set filling the Lyttelton stage. The beating Andalusian solar is glimpsed by the home windows or within the oppressive warmth that has canines howling offstage and the sisters writhing of their cloying black clothes.

Half jail, half fortress, the home is dominated over by Harriet Walter’s magnificently terrible Bernarda, as tightly clenched and joyless as a frosted rose bud. So warped is she by her terror of scandal in a grimly judgmental, misogynist society, she has condemned her daughters to a dwelling loss of life on this ice-box, convincing herself that this makes them protected.

However the partitions listed here are gauze: we see the longing that overtakes these younger girls within the solitude of their rooms, see the hazard seeping by the iron gates, see that no lock and key will preserve a lid on want. The play was initially written in 1936 as Spain tipped into civil struggle and the social and political metaphors are clear: repress folks and they’re going to break. Alice Birch’s pungent new model additionally emphasises its psychological terrain.

Frecknall’s staging begins diffusely, with the sisters remoted round the home whereas gossiping neighbours collect within the eating room for the funeral of Bernarda’s husband. His loss of life has sentenced his daughters to eight years of cloistered mourning. Solely Angustias, the oldest, has a route out by imminent marriage, and her fiancé, Pepe El Romano, turns into an object of fascination for the sisters.

However whereas Angustias has his hand, the youngest daughter Adela has his coronary heart and continues, recklessly, to satisfy him in secret. This may solely finish a technique and because the tragedy gathers, Frecknall’s manufacturing pulls into bleak, surprising focus, ending in a single unhappy room with Walter’s inflexible Bernarda intoning “She died a virgin”, regardless of all proof on the contrary.

The splintered motion of the opening is demanding and fairly stilted, with fragments of story unfolding concurrently across the set. However Frecknall’s method pays dividends, progressively pulling the threads collectively because the story spirals to its conclusion. And he or she makes use of choreography eloquently to specific simmering lust and terror: James McHugh’s muscle-bound Pepe spins and slinks sensuously by the home; a seething mob pursues an single mom.

In a terrific ensemble, Isis Hainsworth’s mutinously sensual Adela, Rosalind Eleazar’s unhappy, pinched Angustias and Lizzie Annis’s desperately jealous Martirio stand out, along with Thusitha Jayasundera’s all-seeing housekeeper. And on the centre is Walter’s granite Bernarda. There are a number of tragedies certain up on this story, and certainly one of them is hers: a girl refusing to see fact and thus miserably complicit in her personal oppression.


To January 6,

A woman and a man wearing stylish evening wear sit together in front of a Christmas tree
Tanya Reynolds and Freddie Fox head a powerful forged in ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ © Marc Brenner

She Stoops to Conquer

Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond upon Thames

Custom, rise up and the technology hole are on present too in Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, however right here it’s to blissful comedian impact. Director Tom Littler pitches Goldsmith’s 1773 comedy into the Thirties with glowing outcomes.

“I really like all the pieces that’s previous,” declares nation landowner Mr Hardcastle — a joyously humorous David Horovitch, who rumbles and wheezes like an previous boiler throughout an sudden chilly snap, and chunters on about Colonel Wallop and the Battle of Belgrade to anybody inside earshot.

That choice for antiquity extends to Hardcastle’s butler, Diggory, a person of historic years with a tenuous grasp on proceedings (Richard Derrington, very humorous), and, extra importantly for the plot, to issues of decorum. So when visiting younger buck Charles Marlow (Freddie Fox), mistaking his host for an innkeeper, begins issuing high-handed calls for, Hardcastle bristles like a hedgehog. Provided that Marlow is a suitor for Hardcastle’s daughter, Kate (Tanya Reynolds), this presents an issue.

The transfer in interval brings recent piquancy to the conflict between previous and new: right here Hardcastle’s tweedy thoughts struggles to understand a world of jazz, flappers and motor automobiles. And it provides edge to the category satire and gender politics: the working joke that younger Marlow is a nervous wreck with girls of his personal class however a lothario with serving women carries a sting in a society about to be upended. Kate, who “stoops” to beat, disguising herself as a barmaid to loosen Marlow’s inhibitions, is the form of girl who might in all probability run the upcoming struggle effort single handed.

However Littler retains all that as a touch of bitters in a comic book cocktail. This can be a heat, affectionate affair, delivered with pretty timing by a wonderful forged. Fox’s Marlow is splendidly humorous: a quivering jelly in well mannered dialog with actual Kate; a pouting peacock with Kate the “barmaid”. Reynolds winds him in with comparable pleasant precision — her suggestive furnishings sharpening is kind of one thing.

There’s nimble supporting work from Robert Mountford and Sabrina Bartlett as their two besties, from Man Hughes as meddling half-brother Tony Lumpkin and from Greta Scacchi as aspiring fashionista Mrs Hardcastle, wearing the identical gaudy colors because the baubles on her Christmas tree and each bit as refined. Within the cosy setting of the Orange Tree, it’s a seasonal deal with.


To January 13,

A man stands close to a woman, gripping her by the wrist; behind her is a mirror. Both have intense expressions
Paul Hilton and Hattie Morahan in ‘Ghosts’ © Marc Brenner


Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

There’s intimacy, as properly, to Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts within the diminutive Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. However right here that proximity tends to claustrophobia. The viewers are trapped with the characters within the unravelling nightmare of a poisonous secret.

We’re again with scandal and oppression, as in The Home of Bernarda Alba. “He’ll inherit nothing from his father,” says Helene Alving vehemently at one level, speaking about her beloved son Osvald. However in actual fact Osvald has inherited the worst factor of all, a truth that can turn into plain because the drama spirals in the direction of its bleak conclusion, and the reality in regards to the revered Captain Alving emerges.

Shockingly frank for its day, Ibsen’s 1882 drama is haunted by ghosts and brutal on hypocrisy. In Joe Hill-Gibbins’ manufacturing, the story performs out as a brooding psychodrama, steeped in candlelight, with the characters clasped in an unfurnished, carpeted room. There are ghosts of all types right here — certainly the characters themselves have an virtually spectral presence, melting on and off the stage like stressed spirits, and succumbing to the story as if taking part in out a ritual.

Hattie Morahan as Helene and Stuart Thompson as Osvald convey a mesmerising depth to this mother-son dance of loss of life, and there’s welcome black comedy from Paul Hilton because the self-serving priest. It’s all slightly muted, although, and the pacing feels unusually gradual in locations; however Hill-Gibbins and designer Rosanna Vize make eloquent use of candlelight, snuffing out tapers together with the characters’ hopes.


To January 28,

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