By Nicholas de Jongh

Drayton Arms Theatre
153 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ to 25 October 2014
Tues – Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3pm
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval, to 25 October.

TICKETS: 0207 835 2301
Review: William Russell 3 October 2014

Lorca’s last, lost love.
Fascinating but wordy, Nicholas de Jongh has set the final days of the poet Garcia Lorca murdered during the Spanish Civil War against the background of British diplomacy at the time. Communism seemed the real menace and Stanley Baldwin’s Government – more afraid of the red menace posed by Stalin – ignored the rise of Fascism in elsewhere in Europe and lent its support to Franco.

It was a shameful now pretty well forgotten period in our history and, while left wingers bravely went to join the fight against the Fascists, Baldwin’s Government and Anthony Eden, then Foreign Secretary, had no stomach for confronting the dictator. Appeasement was the order of the day.

De Jongh has used recently discovered letters to Lorca’s previously unknown and last lover, a 19 year old student, Juan Ramirez de Lucas, to create a multi layered play about love in time of war which in the end proves extremely moving. Like far too many intellectuals Lorca failed to appreciate just what the Fascists could do to him, refusing to leave Spain until the boy could come with him, and de Lucas’ father would not let him go.

The result was Lorca went to Granada, where he thought he would be safe, but it was in the most dangerous place of all.

Director Hamish Mac Dougall has staged it with skill, using light changes to effect changes of time and place, from the investigations by a young gay playwright today into the source of the letters, to the events involving Lorca.

The playing is of a high standard. Damien Hasson is very moving as the lovelorn playwright, James Groom creates an impressive and very smooth Eden, and Matthew Bentley is touching as the boy who survives to old age. But Fringe Theatre demands a lot of doubling and this can cause confusion at times as to who is who. Nor do I think de Jongh has managed that essential – a first act full stop. Things just seems to halt, and the play really only get under way dramatically in act two.

Also the references to Lorca’s plays pose the audience with obvious problems. It is, however, a most impressive piece if, arguably, still a work in progress.

Old Juan/Vansitarrt/Douglas: John Atterbury
Young Juan/Luis Rosales: Matthew Bentley
Harry/Stanley Baldwin/Dorking: Peter Dineen
Alex/Eden/Bolin: James Groom
Garcia Lorca: Damien Hasson
Mariana/ Emerald: Julia Tarnoky

Director: Hamish MacDougall
Designer: Loren Elstein
Sound Designer and Composer: Edward Lewis
Lighting Designer: Zia Holly
Costume Designer and Supervisor: Natasha Prynne

2014-10-05 11:47:30

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