by Lope de Vega new version by Tangram Theatre.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St/Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 28 August 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 August.
Celebration and complicity in play and production.
Though it’s as concerned with honour, monarchy and Catholicism as Lope de Vega’s many other plays, Fuenteovejuna (a village name meaning, apparently, a sheep-well) has an historical subject giving this 1614 play a modern aspect. It might be set in the Spanish Civil War, or as in Tangram’s unconventional revival at Southwark Playhouse, sort of in its 1470s setting, but not so strictly that modern balloons and party-poppers can’t be taken to the wedding.
Tangram create a complicity with the audience in the minutes before the start. They treat scenes playfully. But even the most cartoon moments, with the Spanish monarchs as cosy TV-couch hosts, or the (nearly over-extended) drunken end of a wedding with its speeches, both make the historical background clear or offset and intensify crucial events. Threats to corrupt authority, the danger of power misused against the people in a torch-lit night-scene, come over strongly thanks to their utter seriousness amid the playfulness.
And there’s no doubting the threat of a powerful lord filled with the sense of his honour while indulging his sensuality and revenge. Richard Cunningham’s distorted, tight-drawn features leave no doubt there’s appeal to any better nature.
The only response is collective, and if herding the audience back to the bar shortly after the interval (some members’ idea of real fun) starts-out appearing humorous, it doesn’t seem so for long, as Hannah Boyde’s Laurencia, abducted from her own wedding, scorns male cowardice and whips-up everyone to joint revenge. There’s a frisson of rage mixed with a slight chill that this could become as much mob violence as collective security.
Even the undoubted playground fun of water-bombing the tyrant continues the duality of feeling – just desserts handed out but a kind of group frenzy building too. Still, the final resolve under torture to offer no name but ‘Fuenteovejuna’ as culprit is natural (all were involved) as well as an example of exemplary solidarity.
At time, Tangram might have reined in the jokiness, but the strength of their approach is its clarity, and the involvement of the audience in a piece that’s all about group involvement.
Esteban/Manrique: Anthony Best.
Laurencia: Haannah Boyde.
Frondoso: James Rowland.
Barrildo: Johnny Vivash.
Master/Jacinta: Katherine Rodden.
Ortuño/Red John: Martin Aukland.
Cimbranos/King Ferdinand: Peter Stickney.
Passcuala/Queen Isabel: Rachel Dale.
Fernán Gomez de Guzman/Judge: Richard Cunningham.
Flores: Rob Cavazos.
Mengo: Rob Witcomb.
Director: Dabniel Goldman.
Dramaturg/Assistant director: Carolina Ortega.