IMAGINE the torrid, passionate and intense traditions of rural Spain in the 1930s transported to Salisbury Plain.
That’s what Barney Norris has done to Lorca’s play Blood Wedding. The original has a cast of 12 and embodies death as a character. The Wiltshire playwright has cleverly pruned the company to six, cutting out the feuds and the religious aspects of the story, replacing them with a deep sense of rootedness on the Plain and the story of the history of Imber, familiar to many of those in the Salisbury audience.
Set at the back of a very recognisable village hall, young Rob and his five-years-older new girlfriend are planning their wedding, only three weeks ahead. It’s the only venue available at such short notice. Rob’s mother is worried about the rush, but so determined to keep in her son’s good books that she goes along with his marriage to almost a stranger.
While they are looking over the facilities with crumbling widowed caretaker Brian, the pregnant Danni, with a baby in a pram, appears on the scene, bringing lunch for her husband, Lee. She’s a schoolfriend of the bride, Georgie, who also has a history with Lee. The excited Rob, knowing nothing of the background, invites them to the wedding …
This is a co-production by Wiltshire Creative and Barney Norris and Alice Hamilton’s company Up in Arms, on at Salisbury Playhouse until 22nd February.
Hamilton and Norris have worked for many years in collaboration, and no-one understands the writer’s Wiltshire-embedded nuance like Hamilton does.
The inevitable outcome of the story fits as perfectly into rural Wiltshire as it did to its Spanish original, and the Imber thread, beautifully unfurled by the unexpected philosopher Brian (Jeff Rawle), gives this new version a new dimension.
Emmet Byrne’s taut and obsessed Lee is a startling contrast to Reece Evans’ carefree, happy Rob, with Teresa Banham as Rob’s tentatively caring mother. Lily Nichol, at the centre of the drama, gives Georgie a selfishly helpless recklessness that has always infuriated Danni (in a beautifully judged performance by Eleanor Henderson).
Dialect coach Sian Radinger has drawn familiar Wiltshire familiar accents from this perfect cast as they hurtle towards their fate.
It’s a brilliant reworking, and well worth seeing.
Photographs by Helen Murray