Verde, Agua y Luna
Calder Bookshop & Theatre
Reviewed – 3rd May 2019
“a condensed taste of his profoundly sincere and expressive creativity”
With both Spanish and non-Spanish speakers in mind, ‘Verde, Agua y Luna’ (Green, Water and Moon) is an immersion in the imagery and emotions of Federico García Lorca. Born in Granada in 1898 and executed by Nationalist forces in 1936, it was as a pianist that he found his first artistic outlet. Taking to writing in his late teens, he revealed an intensity and passion in poetry and plays which drew in elements from the rawness and purity of nature, being steeped in his traditional musical heritage and showing an openness to avant-garde influences. Rather than adopt the more emblematic characteristics of ‘cante jondo’ (a primitive Flamenco song style) or Andalusian culture, often found in his works, this piece distils the essence of three key words which represent Lorca’s recurring themes of love, death, desire, sexuality and repression of freedom. Even though he was lucky enough to be creating alongside compatriots such as film-maker Luis Buñuel, artist Salvador Dalí and composer Manuel de Falla, the suppression of his homosexuality and liberal thinking produced deep-rooted anguish, apparent in the melancholy and tragedy of his writing.
Luis Gayol and Maria Estévez-Serrano perform their own blend of Lorca’s texts which illustrate the motifs as spirits invading his thoughts in the hours before his death. Simultaneously, a stylish projection by Enrique Muñoz Jiménez translates the intrinsic parts of this narrative, showing, towards the end, examples of Lorca’s own drawings. There is resourceful use of the small space and simple but effective details in the versatility of the costumes (Jenny Hobson). For someone who doesn’t understand the language, it has an impressionistic feel, a musical immediacy in the sound and rhythm and interesting visual ideas, particularly from some very evocative lighting (Enrique Muñoz Jiménez), but it lacks depth. The programme notes help to make sense of the concept but cannot enhance the drama. Only in ‘Agua’, in a poignant performance from Maria Estévez-Serrano, do we appreciate the nuances of her thirst for life through Lorca’s portrayal of women stifled by their constrained lives. It is a more engaging and moving enactment for those who speak Spanish, though Luis Gayol’s accent and demeanour make for an unusual image of the poet.
The tiny theatre hidden, in Narnia-esque fashion, behind a curtain at the back of the Calder Bookshop is part of the evening’s discovery. ‘Verde, Agua y Luna’ is an enriching but different experience for everyone, depending on their familiarity with Spanish, its culture, its history and Lorca’s literature. If somewhat academic in approach, it is a condensed taste of his profoundly sincere and expressive creativity.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Verde, Agua y Luna
Calder Bookshop and Theatre until 18th May
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Calder Bookshop and Theatre
Reviewed – 2nd November 2018
“Santarosa’s design for the space treated its few square metres of floor with brutal efficiency”
Inga at the Calder Bookshop and Theatre is an English-language translation of the original work, published in Russian in 1928 by Anatole Glebov. At its heart, it appears to be asking what it means to exist as an autonomous individual within a system that requires everyone to play a specific part. Set in a Soviet clothing factory at the beginning of Josef Stalin’s first five-year plan, Inga chooses to focus on the issues faced by young women. The shift from the paternalistic, male-dominated structure of pre-Soviet Russia to the hypothetically egalitarian Communist system was far from smooth sailing, and this play captures some angles of this struggle.
In many ways, there is something disconcertingly familiar about it. Perhaps there was a conscious effort in the translation, but some of the lines – “this is what happens when women are given power”, “your job is to stay at home, and look after me” certainly didn’t feel like they were last spoken in 1928. The sexism and abuse piled onto the female characters felt so draining because it’s not yet dead, and taking another look at these issues in social context so far removed from our own was a very interesting process to watch.
Similarly, the play touches in some depth on the double standards that the characters face. Two co-workers entering a relationship and the woman seeing far more consequences than her male counterpart is another situation that we still see plenty of today, and Inga managed to explore this without falling too far into the traps of cliche.
It feels important to add that this theatre space is absolutely tiny, with only a couple of dozen chairs grouped around the stage. Personally, I felt that this added an interesting element of accountability. Essentially, this is a play about individuals choosing where they stand, and justifying it to the people with whom they have to co exist. By having the audience placed so inescapably in the action, we were offered as much of a choice as any of the characters.
Marcio Andrey Santarosa’s design for the space treated its few square metres of floor with brutal efficiency, using only simple lighting techniques to shift it from location to location all the way through. At times, it did feel a little like they were doing too much. With a big cast and a variety of different threads of story running alongside one another, both the stage and plot occasionally felt a little too busy, suggesting that it could have benefited from some streamlining. With that said, the variety of focal points does allow for the situation’s complexities to translate.
This is an interesting adaptation from quite far outside the English speaking, Western canon that tends to dominate our stages, taking a long, hard look at problems that are, perhaps, completely universal.
Reviewed by Grace Patrick
Calder Bookshop and Theatre until 25th November