The House of Bernarda Alba

Spain during the 1930s. A strict household inhabited by women only: two servants, five sisters, a demented grandmother and Bernarda, the matriarch. There's only one man these women have had contact with in years - Bernarda's second husband - and he has just died. The family is about to begin an eight-year mourning period imposed by Bernarda, so when Pepe el Romano comes for the hand of the eldest sister, Angustias (her name translates to ‘torments’), passions emerge and tragedy strikes.

With so many characters on stage, all dressed in black, the challenge was to make each personality and intention clear to us from the beginning, which this cast did flawlessly.

From the beginning we're immersed in an atmosphere of passions and contained fires. A flamenco dancer performs a beautiful piece to a melancholic melody sung in Spanish. The result is harrowing but effective. The melody stays at the back of our minds while we see a love triangle unfold. Pepe's night visits are not exclusive to Angustias; he's interested in another sister. Could it be the younger and misunderstood Adela? Or perhaps it's the quiet Martirio ('Martyr')?

This production carefully follows the words by Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca, with some modern elements. For instance, the story takes place in a minimalistic setting which uses light changes to highlight the moods on stage. This also helps us to focus primarily on the escalating emotions of a family forbidden to feel: “Don't cry one tear,” Bernarda orders just after her husband's funeral. Another interesting element is the use of slow-motion scenes in critical violent moments adding to the despair and to Lorca's idea of this being a 'photographic documentary.'

Although at the centre of this family crisis and love triangle is a man, we only see females as Lorca's script instructs. With so many characters on stage, all dressed in black, the challenge was to make each personality and intention clear to us from the beginning, which this cast did flawlessly. Where the play diminished its credibility and lost some effect was in the physical delivery of some characters. This is the case of Martirio, a character who we find out to be hunch-backed through the dialogue but whose hunch we never see. The same happens with Poncia, a woman we only find out to be an elder when she mentions so.

Some acting was remarkable. Worthy of mention is Bernarda, played by Emily Thomson on this night. Thomson perfectly captured the spirit of a dominating woman who controls her daughters like a puppet-master. It is surprising how the maturity and energy of her character is not delivered through makeup or costumes but through persuasive acting.

The House of Bernarda Alba is still as absorbing and controversial, as if 80 years hadn't elapsed since its writing. When Martirio says “there's no worse punishment than being born a woman” and the words resound as if they were meant for our generation, all we want to do is jump on stage to stop Bernarda and save her daughters. Not many plays can claim such commitment.

Reviews by Natalia Equihua

Edinburgh College of Art

Mobile Neon Workshops: Edinburgh 2014

★★★★★
Assembly Hall

Haka

★★★★
theSpace on Niddry St

The House of Bernarda Alba

★★★★
The Edinburgh Dungeon

Deadly Dungeon Murder Mystery

★★
Whitespace 25

Zoon Politikon

★★★
Hendrick's Carnival of Knowledge

Fear and Loathing

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

‘It was perfect’ ***** (Edinburgh Guide). ’Frankly wonderful’ **** (Scotsman). Multi award nominated Fourth Monkey reimagine Lorca’s classic for the Fringe. Following her husband's death the domineering matriarch Bernarda Alba imposes an eight year mourning period on her five daughters. Tense, beautiful and full of passion Fourth Monkey bring their renowned visceral style to Lorca’s most famous work.

Most Popular See More

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £22.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Witness for the Prosecution

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets