The House of Barnada Alba

Date 19th July 2018
Society Portable Theatre Company
Venue Felton Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Ensemble Production

Report

Author: Kathryn Curry

Written in 1936, ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ explores the theme of repression through the relationships within the Alba household. The play foreshadows the harsh political regime of Franco’s Spain, when desire and individual freedoms were constrained. Bernarda’s tyrannical rule over her 5 daughters crushes their natural love and independent thought. Their house becomes both a prison and a convent in which they are denied any outlet for self-expression. To perform this play was indeed a challenge for ‘The Portable Theatre Company’ but they rose to the challenge and gave us an evening charged with emotion in one the most professional play productions I have seen.  A simple but very effective set was a perfect setting for the drama. Good lighting, props and costumes all added to the overall oppressive ambience of this strict household in mourning. Sympathetic music was in keeping and the whole stage set certainly did transport the audience into a very dramatic and heart rendering production keeping us completely engaged throughout and this indeed deserves praise for such a thought provoking piece.

‘Bernarda’ (Lynne Lambert) the newly bereaved widow of a wealthy man and the mother of 5 daughters, declared eight years of mourning, effectively imprisoning her daughters in the house. Lynne played this part with obvious insight into the characterisation of the role and was simply superb, showing her stage presence and acting skills. At the end of the play the emotion she displayed had the audience spell bound and you could have heard a pin drop. A very talented lady indeed!  This was by any measure a first class cast headed by Lynne and their performances did not disappoint. They worked together in an amazing way to create the perfect atmosphere of this claustrophobic house and at times the murderous silence on stage was extremely chilling and charged with emotion. The five daughters were played by Sophie McDougal, Antonia Hoskins-Brown, Sarah Purvis, Claire Teasdale and Freya Stone and they all gave very convincing performances to create an atmosphere of rivalry and affection and there was a pleasing lightness of touch from all the girls to create and lead us through their individual characters and emotions. New comer Freya Stone who played daughter ‘Adela’ was outstanding and deserves special mention.

 ‘La Poncia’ the housekeeper (Sally Pumford) kept the whole cast in order and gave a very polished performance continuously changing her persona in a seemingly effortless way to match emotions on stage and showed what a versatile actress she is. ‘Maid’ (Carol Robson) was a lovely role to get your teeth into and Carol made an excellent job of it. What a joy Arlene Cadman is to watch on stage and in the role of ‘Maria Josefa’ Bernarda’s mother
Arlene excelled in every aspect and showed what a truly superb character actress she is. Her diction, gestures, engagement with the audience was second to none.  Cameo roles by Anne Ousby, Palesa Thompson, Carole Dodds and Lauren Robinson were all well acted.

Undoubtedly this was a controversial piece to stage but the insight the production team had was manifested in a very, very realistic staging of this story.  This cast must have worked so hard to stage this play and it was obvious that it was very thought provoking to them all to perform their characters in such depth. My congratulations to them all for giving a packed audience an evening of superb drama charged with emotion.