It was a rainy Valentine’s Day and a smug coupledom seemed to be all around. Therefore it seemed rather ironic to be attending a preview for Lorca’s play Blood Wedding – a tragedy of unfulfilled love.
However, the Valentine’s buzz was immediately shaken off me as I was shown into the rehearsal room by Amelia Cherry, the producer. There were three groups forcefully acting several different scenes, some of them dancing. My immediate impression was that I was disturbing the meeting of some sort of cult.
Speaking to the director, Connie Treves, she explains to me her vision for the play. “The play is abstract enough to synthesise dance and movement, which is one of my interests, the language is lyrical and yet the plot is very simple. It’s all about heat.” She laughs, “Although we aren’t setting our production in Spain as Lorca might have imagined, I want that heat to come across instead in the acting of the movement and through the music.”
Connie calls the three groups to present the scenes they had been working on to me and the other actors. “Like show and tell!” laughs David McFarlane, the musical director. He was joking, of course, but this is somewhat how it feels. I can’t deny that the passion felt by the acting in the room is tangeable: the heat Connie speaks of is certainly coming across in the scenes I observe. They are from different areas of the play and, thus, each have a very different feel. The first I might have said was realism, the second quite physical, and the third somewhere in between. It will be interesting to see how the scenes link together within the whole play.
Talking to Bee Liese, who plays the bride, and Josh Ames-Blackaby, who plays Leonardo, I get a sense of how they are interpreting their characters. “Leonardo is three-dimensional, but the play tests how far the audience will sympathise with him,” says Josh. “They might see his actions as purely destructive, but they might also forgive him because he is acting on love. A bit like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.” I ask Bee how she’s trying to put across her female character in relation to this – is she passive or powerful? “She’s certainly a strong character and in many ways she’s in control, although she may not say much. There’s a constant feeling that she’s being observed, and I think that’s partly what they play is about.”
I slyly ask the pair what they think of Connie’s approach: Josh has already worked with her physical style last term on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are both fans. “She has a clear vision,” says Bee and tells me how paintings were brought to the early rehearsals which Connie asked the actors to respond to. She had them physically act out their lines rather than speak them. “It’s a really fresh approach. The fact she invites us to devise how we want the scenes to be encourages us to really engage with the play. It makes my work with Josh intimate and personal because we’ve come up with it ourselves.”
Overall, it’s great to see a student production that’s truly multi-disciplinary, outside of musical theatre. The group are full of life. Not something to miss.
Blood Wedding runs at St John’s College Auditorium from Wednesday 25th until Friday 27th February.