Review: The House of Bernarda Alba by Frederico Garcia Lorca, The Gallery Players with music by Pat Whymark, in the atmospheric setting of Christchurch Mansion, May 11

Shelley Clempson as the title character in the Gallery Players production of The House of Bernarda

Shelley Clempson as the title character in the Gallery Players production of The House of Bernarda Alba - Credit: Archant

Families can be brutal places, and in pre Civil War Spain the women have no real power except that which they can bargain from marriage.

Sally Scurrell in the Gallery Players production of The House of Bernarda Alba

Sally Scurrell in the Gallery Players production of The House of Bernarda Alba - Credit: Archant

The patriarch is dead, his widow Bernarda Alba intends to mourn for eight years, shutting out light and life from the house because that is what is respectable. Her five daughters, all unmarried, wilt at the news. Bernarda Alba rules her daughters with a viciousness that at times is breath taking- like being punched in the stomach.

Performing this play at Christchurch Mansion is an absolutely inspired decision by the production team. The small vestibule area allows only an audience of 45, but an intimacy is produced that makes the tension so great, and the atmosphere so claustrophobic we can almost feel the literal and metaphorical heat rising.

Disempowered by the patriarchy that rules their lives, they only have each other to fight with and “suck the gossip off their fingers like gravy”. Large portraits, mainly of men, are used as a mise en scene in the production and look over the action as a constant, oppressive presence .

This is a play with fantastic parts for women and the main performances in this piece are outstanding. Jo Lewis as Martirio resonated with her characterisation, capturing a nuanced balance of sympathy and bitterness. Bernarda Alba herself, played with absolute conviction and terrifying purpose by Shelley Clempson, spits out her deadly lines that are often such darkly funny put downs that you can see her victims crushed under the weight of her words.


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Augustias, the eldest daughter in her 40s, superbly played with intelligent and heart breaking detail by Rose Beattie, seems to be holding on by a thread, beaten down by the cruelty of her mother . Only Adela, the youngest is reckless enough to take on her mother. They seem to be two sides of the same coin, such is her determination and spirit. Evie White was hugely convincing in this role and her presence was equal to Bernarda Alba herself.

I absolutely recommend this, it is the best non-professional production I have ever seen. However, unfortunately it has already sold out. I really hope that the Gallery Players team can re-visit this production again at a (not too) later date

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Jackie Montague

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