from an original work by Federico Garcia Lorca translated by Rona Munro
Rona Munro's version of Federico García Lorca’s 1936 play The House of Bernarda Alba (La Casa de Bernarda Alba) was commissioned by Shared Experience and first performed at the Salisbury Playhouse on 11 March 1999 at the start of a tour.
The play is set in the titular house belonging to Bernarda Alba who, having been left a widow after the death of her second husband, locks all the doors and windows and imposes a seven-year mourning period. Her grown-up daughters, ordered to sew and be silent, begin to seethe as their chances of escaping their mother’s grip grow ever slimmer. The sisters are jealous of eldest daughter Angustias’ large dowry, inherited from her father and Bernarda’s first husband, which means that she at least has a shot at marriage. However, her proposed suitor, Pepe, is having a secret affair with another sister, Adela. The fight for Pepe’s attentions, and the potent sibling rivalry bred within the isolated house, ultimately lead to tragic consequences for Bernarda Alba and her children.
In an author's note in the published edition, Munro describes Lorca's play as 'a passionate appeal against repression. If only, the play seems to say, we could love where we chose. If only we could throw off mourning and reclaim our relationship with life. If only we could touch each other openly, not through the bars of a window in the dark... If only all the forces of tradition and landed wealth could be relaxed so that the rich could consider more than the future of their acres and the poor could be released from the eternal worry of where the next plate of chick peas was coming from.'
The Shared Experience production was directed by Polly Teale and designed by Angela Davies. It was performed by Gabrielle Reidy, Sandy McDade, Sandra Duncan (as Bernarda), Manda Drew, Tanya Ronder, Carolyn Jones, Janet Henfrey, Ruth Lass and Victoria Finney.
After touring Guildford, West Yorkshire, Richmond, Oxford, Bath and Liverpool, the production opened at the Young Vic Theatre, London, on 18 May 1999.
Rona Munro later revisited the play for a National Theatre of Scotland production in 2009 in which she updated the text by setting the story in the heart of gangland Glasgow.