Oh Blood Wedding how do I love thee! Let me count the ways
I love the theatre I saw you in: the tatty, old Everyman Theatre in Liverpool transformed to open, accessible, modernist glory, but with its soul intact. I love your set. Yes it is a wee bit A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts in that there is a wall upon which things might be projected/written, microphones, tech desk at side and cast members milling around doing warm ups. I know it is a bit like a lot of ‘European flavoured’ theatre we’ve been seeing in the last few years but I’m a total sucker for that kind of thing. I love the huge lit up letters spelling out LOVE and the fact I only twig they are the initials of the main characters 10 minutes before the end. I adore your casting! Unlike other casts we could mention, which can look a bit ‘diversity by numbers’ ie the black one, the disabled one (if you’re lucky), the Blood Wedding company is properly multi-cultural across race, gender, disability, accent and nationality. Looking at it, it feels so refreshingly normal. What seems weird by comparison are productions populated almost exclusively by white, non-disabled males.
Blood Wedding feels like what theatre should be like, because it is what life is like. Families have people of many races in them; people with disabilities have families, friends, jobs, weddings, lovers. It seems bizarre we almost never get to see this on stage. And if we do the disability often has to be AN ISSUE. I love your adaptation with a deep and abiding passion. It’s funny, genuinely funny in a way that Lorca never is in this country. It’s sexy – properly sexy and funny at the same time. The scene where Leonardo turns up on the morning of the Bride’s wedding to ask her for one last fuck goes straight into my top three favorite scenes. I love the way that it has responded to each performer, the way it prods away mercilessly at our deep socialtal discomfort with topics of disability, race, class.
I love the way that all aspects of ‘integration’ and ‘access’ add layers of meaning and nuance that just makes it better theatre. In this production, the Groom’s Mother is deaf (a very brilliant EJ Raymond), she communicates with her son, Edward (equally brilliant Ricci Mcleod) in BSL. He interprets for her. Their co-dependent relationship, the pain and embarrassment they cause each other clear in the language they speak and the language they sign (there are a couple of pointed moments using very un-PC signs for ‘Chinese’ and ‘cripple’). When at end they fight and he stops signing and just shouts in her face – it is shocking, heartbreaking. I loved the way the audio description functioned as the other characters/performers describing and commenting on the action, so took me further into not away from the performance. In the final scenes in particular, where the tone shifts towards the poetic and tragic (though still thank goodness with a leveling dose of sarcasm), I noticed how I took in the text both hearing and reading it. It gave me both a dramatic and literary appreciation at the same time, both more into the scene and into the language which I wanted to hold, savour and commit to memory for further use (no published text I could see sadly). I want to wrap my arms around the production, hold it up, tell everyone ‘THIS is it. THIS is what I mean – make theatre for EVERYONE and you make better theatre’.
I LOVE your company. Love them. The always fantastic Anne Louise Ross as a sharp, sexy Aunt Shirley. Alison Halstead as no bullshit Alma, Leonardo’s mother in law, who will be your best friend but kill you if she has to. Gerard McDermott employing his considerable talent for comedy as the Bride’s bluff, ‘but handsome’ father. Irene Macdougall as the busybody neighbor nobody really likes. Millie Turner tragic as the unloved, stressed Leonardo’s wife. Ricci Mcleod made Edward, the Groom, lovable but not a wimp. And Miles Mitchell as Leonardo and the wonderful Amy Conachan as Olivia, the lovers, are two very attractive, very charismatic performers. The scene where they flirt, then make out in the restaurant, is fantastic writing, sexy, dangerous, beautifully played and worth the price of admission in itself (yes I did pay, it was their last night, only a heel asks for a comp on the last night). You hate them and love them, want them to get together, and hope she throws him out. Lorca, I think, would have approved. It is sex and death, the kind of sex that has to lead to death.
I love the fact that Graeae have been going for 35 years, Jenny Sealey has been Artistic Director for 18 years (more or less) and both company and director are getting better and better. Far from running out of artistic steam, Blood Wedding is my favorite Graeae show so far and I’ve been watching them for about 20 years. It feels more inventive, bolder, more truly integrated in sense of all elements of production working together. Real theatre for everyone.
But. Here’s the thing I don’t love. Despite all of the above, and not even three years after the Paralympics (for which Jenny co-directed the ceremonies) the future of the company is at risk. Not from Arts Council cuts but cuts to vital funding schemes which support disabled people to live and work independently, Access to Work and Independent Living Fund. Jenny Sealy is looking at having to reduce her days at Graeae because the funds are not there to provide interpretation she needs as a BSL user. These kind of insidious cuts will not just disappear people with disabilities from our stages and screens but from our lives and society as well. One of Graeae’s earliest shows was M3 Junction 4 which imagined a dystopian world where disabled people were moved into villages away from rest of society. That reads now less like dystopia and more like policy from the Department of Work and Pensions. We have never needed Graeae more than we do now.