Monday, 16 November 2009

A passionate weekend: Lorca and Flamenco. . .

I love weekends that aren't necessarily planned around a theme but just end up that way.

I'm a season subscriber to the Tarragon Theatre and often go with my friend K. We'd booked a Saturday matinee of their latest production - Rocking the Cradle - a few weeks ago, but being busy, I didn't really read up on the play ahead of time and didn't realize it was an adapation of Federico Garcia Lorca's Yerma. And then I happened to buy a ticket for Toronto's Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company which coincidentally just happened to be offering a program of flamenco dancing inspired by Lorca's life - on the evening of my matinee. It was perfect serendipity. Then Tarragon called to let me know there would be a pre-play talk by a York University professor who had directed a student production of Yerma. I went to that too - he gave some good background on the playwright and stressed the importance of the poetry, primitivism and social commentary in Lorca's plays.

I hadn't previously read or seen any productions of Lorca, so in preparation, I spent the morning reading three of his most famous plays, all written during the 1930s - Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba. I loved them - the poetic language, the intensity of the emotions, and all these powerfully strong, yet pained and desperate women characters. In the introduction to my collection, Lorca's brother Francisco writes about how Lorca drew on classical Spanish theatre traditions for his own plays: "Our ancient theatre is a holiday - a great holiday for the spirit, for the eyes and for the ears," writes Francisco. "No modern playwright has made the musical and the plastic share in the theatre to the extent that Federico did."

Unfortunately, all these poetic and passionate elements seemed to be missing in Rocking the Cradle, an adaptation that creatively tried to re-imagine the story in Newfoundland, but suffered from a rather weak cast, and a distracting and unnecessary stage scrim. So disappointing because I really was in the mood to see a powerful production.

The Flamenco dancing was terrific though and had my toes tapping throughout. Great musicians, and fiery feet combined with beautiful control from the dancers. Coincidentally, I had recently purchased Carlos Saura's Flamenco Trilogy DVD set as I loved his movie Tango. I watched all three movies this weekend as well - Blood Wedding ( a filmed rehearsal of a ballet based on Lorca's play), Carmen (in which life intersects with art as the choreographer of a flamenco version of Bizet's opera falls in love with his leading lady) and El Amor Brujo, about a man in love with a woman who can't stop mourning her dead but unfaithful husband. All three were wonderful - heart-pounding and seductive. They made me want to wear a red dress with flounces and rapidly stamp my feet. I also have his later film titled simply Flamenco and will watch it soon. I can't wait - no one films dance better than Saura. The office is going to seem completely colourless and dull by comparison tomorrow morning.

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