The House of Bernarda Alba
Review by David Rowbotham
Brent McGregor is directing Garcio Lorco's The House of Bernarda Alba for La Boite Theatre with a tension that literally makes the play seethe, as it is meant to do.
This is the last play which Lorca (1899-1936) wrote before his death at the time of the Spanish Civil War. He sub-titled it "a drama about women in the villages of Spain". It gives the sense of a surrounding world of bitterness and harshness.
Inside the house, the dominant mother-character, Bernarda, played with whiplash force by Pat Thomson symbolises the generations of control against which her daughters must rebel. Her house is loveless, held together only at her command. Her tyranny is like a man’s since, in a house without men, she has to assume the man's role.
Something among those five oppressed, simmering, frustrated daughters, is bound to snap. Violence is inevitable. The five daughters are played by Barbara Kaus, Robyn Torney, Marian Gibney, Victoria Arthur, and Tricia Kaus. They act splendidly, portraying five women joined in rebellion against the widowed mother, yet set against one another by the unseen figure of the one man whose "off-stage" presence shapes their jealousy and fury.
Here is a dramatic story of authority and dissension, going far beyond the house in which it is set. It is raw-nerved. It is tragic. It rings true for the household, and historically for the Spain of the day. It is so well performed it is harrowing. Yet, if a play grips you, it must be good. This play, and its production, are gripping indeed.
The Courier Mail, April 4 1976