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The House Of Bernarda Alba


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 10:04 PM

I thought this was magnificent. The tension, the stifling heat, the frustration, the oppression...all beautifully brought out in the design and the touching acting. Shohreh Aghdashloo may be the star draw and she clearly has star quality, but I particularly loved Pandora Colin and Amanda Hale too, and there wasn't a weak link among them.  The Iranian setting worked superbly, and the image of a room full of veiled women fanning themselves in silence will stay with me for a long time. Wonderful.

#2 Max Von Mayerling

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 08:06 PM

Reviews have been pretty great, including yours.  I found the whole thing thoroughly misconceived; Bernarda had the purr of Eartha Kitt mixed with the style of Joan Collins, so never seemed oppressed and shaped by her experience of patriarchy, leading to her perpetrating the same on her daughters.  And the daughters...all sounded like they'd been to a private English school like Bedales, entirely unrelated to their mother's accent or the supposed Iranian setting.  True, every culture has its middle or upper class, but that doesn't have to be represented by cut glass voices and English roses.  All a very odd cultural hotch potch which didn't read legibly in any way for me.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:10 PM

I think I just don't bother about accents. Or rather I do in the sense that I'd have hated the British actors to put on cod Farsi accents. I generally find that if actors speak in what I take to be their own voices, I instinctively accept that the characters are speaking in their own voices. It's only if they put on a voice that I start fretting about where they are meant to be from.

#4 Max Von Mayerling

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 12:06 AM

I do agree with you in some ways (cod accents would have been awful), and a case could be made for their accents being different from their mother's because she did (once) see the outside world, in a way they've not been allowed to.  But I guess I'm back to reading into what was presented.  Looking at it the other way, if we are to hear them as just ordinary or neutral there are many actors (perhaps even those who were cast) who could achieve less cut-glass voices.  Although in our culture actors seem to be getting 'posher' again, I think 'ordinary' voices/accents can be found.  Perhaps what they did is ordinary at the Almeida, mind (ha ha); but not for me a useful representation of Bernarda and her daughters being a slight cut above the farmhands and villagers around them.

#5 Honoured Guest

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 03:32 AM

View Postpadawan, on 29 January 2012 - 12:05 AM, said:

Exactly. That's why I was so disappointed because I was very curious and yeah had high expectations about how they would adapt it to Iran. I didn't find anything Iranian (especially rural Iran) in this play except for some prayers and hijabs which felt a bit orientalist.  I'm not from Iran but I'm from next door to Iran (and huge admirer of their cinema) so I know their culture well. I went with an Iranian friend of mine and she agreed with me.
I'm not from Iran or next door, but the lead actor's Iranian and works in rural Iran and the director's of Iranian heritage so I give them the benefit of the doubt. For me, the setting works really well because it enables the play's action to take place in the present, giving it an impact of urgent reality. It rules out the dismissive oh-so-English audience option of responding by saying "Oh, that's what those funny Spaniards did at that time."

I noticed the accents when each character first spoke but immediately accepted them without hindrance, as Alexandra did.

Reading the programme afterwards, I can see I probably missed a lot of the nuances. But I found the evening really compelling, particularly on the level of what's going on, who knows what's going on, who's manipulating who, and so on. It bears comparison to Grief.

The programme contains an article by Lorca in which he asserts the universality of the prevailing mood of duende and gives Iranian music as an example of it outside Spain.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 07:54 AM

The programme is excellent actually. Worth reading beforehand if you have time. If not, certainly worth reading afterwards.

#7 mallardo

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 09:20 AM

View PostAlexandra, on 03 February 2012 - 07:54 AM, said:

The programme is excellent actually. Worth reading beforehand if you have time. If not, certainly worth reading afterwards.


I agree that this was an extremely powerful show.  Wonderful ensemble acting in a great set and, for me, the stakes raised considerably by situating it in contemporary Iran. The play has never seemed so alive.  The tension built steadily and irrevocably to the harrowing climax.  Great theatre.
Excuse me if I seem jejune
I promise I'll find my marbles soon.

#8 padawan

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 04:45 PM

I went to the post-performance Talkback of this one since I was curious to hear their perspective of adapting the play to Iran. The 2nd director (who is actually from Spain) was there with the some of the cast. She started by explaining why they adapted to Iran. Basically when they went through the script, they just saw how similar it was to Iran. She said they found it very easy to adapt it to Iran, they just had to change little things like replacing Andalucia songs by Dashti prayers or adding the event of neighbour lady being chased for having lost her "dignity". I felt like they didn't want to modify the characters so much as they thought they were universal. I am on same page with them because I thought it was like that when I saw the play. I felt the characters could belong to any other country. But is it adapting, then? What I mean is what's the point of adapting it to another place? I don't know maybe I'm not an expert on such things about theatre.

The accent issue was asked too by the audience. Jane Bertish (who was playing the maid) quickly said oh the director didn't want us to do that. Shohreh Aghdashloo took it to another level by saying in response that theatre should be borderless, beyon borders without accents, ethnicity etc. She added she heard Measure for Measure is to be played in Afganistan and she was very happy about it. Hmmmm, I thought, shame that my favourite actress, the brilliant Ruth Wilson had to go all the way to Minnesota to pick Anna Christie's accent.

I do not want to be harsh on the play as I thought it had a strong story and the tension was really strong within an amazing set, but in my opinion the adaptation to Iran part was very misconceived.




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