Theatre: Bodas de Sangre; Theatro Technis, London

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The Independent Culture
"Ha llegado otra vez la hora de la sangre" ("Time once more for blood to flow"), predicts the groom's mother as preparations mount for the wedding at the centre of Lorca's Bodas de Sangre in this enticing all-Spanish production from Telon.

Not the words you'd expect from a proud mother on her son's wedding day, but then love, according to Lorca, is never happy-go-lucky and starry- eyed, but always darkly obsessive, an ultimately destructive beast.

Telon, the lone representative of Hispanic theatre in the UK, work Theatro Technis's criminally minuscule space to good effect. Not only is the stage the size of a sand-pit, for the purposes of this suffocating, dusty tragedy, it is a sand-pit. Just as Lorca steeps his protagonists in the parched Andalusian earth, so director Antonio Cantos has his young charges clawing and grasping at the dust in their moments of despair, the lover pawing at the ground like a young bull, rolling over and over in the sand with his stolen bride.

Cantos's purposeful direction papers over some of the weaker roles. The golden rule when working a stage the size of a postcard is: go vertical. So for Lorca's intensely lyrical forest scene, in which the Moon and the woodcutters come out to gloat over the imminent bloodletting, Cantos presents us with a rope-ladder forest, the masked woodcutters leaping from tree to tree as they whip up their bloodthirsty chorus.

Even Death takes to the air, a cloak-clad drummer on stilts, while the Moon, which Cantos chooses to depict as female (Lorca opted for an un- traditional masculine moon), perches high upon a swing in the form of two witchy temptresses, one red, one white, breasts shimmering in the moonlight as they lick their lips in anticipation of the sweet blood about to drench the forest floor. It's a timeless, impactful scene, loaded with a charged sense of eroticism at the coming of death, a death rendered inescapable by the constrictions and enclosure of the rope forest.

The beauty of Lorca's lyricism makes it hard for any translation to do the text justice and provides a solid argument for keeping it in Spanish. Further, its visual strengths and solemn guitar score do much to disguise the production's fringe roots and help make it penetrable to the non-Spanish speaker.

Telon are an ambitious young company, putting on four productions a year, and certainly deserve a bigger stage (in every respect). And in Gracia Esparza, the groom's mother, they have an actress of some authority, capable of humour injection - inspecting the bride like a piece of meat, she peers down her blouse to check the goods - yet still able to dominate proceedings, as indeed she must, since from the outset her dark fear for the life of her one remaining son casts a shadow over all that is to come.

She wrenches out her final lines - "Your tears are mere tears from the eyes, but mine will come when I'm alone, and they'll come from the soles of my feet, from my very roots, and they'll be hotter than blood" - with a controlled hysteria verging on the manic, almost mad with grief as, prostrate, she clenches the ground, unleashing fistfuls of sand into the air.

Afterwards, outside the theatre, as if to confirm that this was indeed an earth-moving production, those who had occupied the front row were doubled up, clearing the Andalusian dust from the backs of their throats.

n 'Bodas de Sangre' is at Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Rd, London NW1 (0171-383 5450) to 2 June

MARK WAREHAM

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