The play's title captures its primal drama. It begins with the Bridegroom (David Valencia) assuring his over-protective Mother (Spanish veteran Mariola Fuentes) that his Bride (Silvia Colloca) is a good woman. But it is well-known she once had a boyfriend – none other than Leonardo (Matias Stevens), a member of the Félix family who murdered the Bridegroom's father and his only brother.
Further bloodshed seems inevitable when Leonardo – passionate and irrepressible – attends the wedding. The 'good match' is, as the Bride says, 'a trickle of water' in the flames of her and Leonardo's passion. Time, other marriages and children cannot quash its heat, destining them all to an explosive culmination.
Tradition tries to channel and shape primordial forces, and it is this pull between what is respectable and what is unstoppable that gives the play its foreboding power. The Bride describes love as being dragged against her will; a 'dark river'. And a knife, a little knife 'that barely fits in the hand', can destroy everything.
In the Malthouse interpretation, existence is elemental. It is hot, they are poor, and the stakes are high. The versatile gravel floor coats the actors in a fine dust and emphasises that these are people from the earth, and to the earth they will return. Creating its own menacing soundtrack, each crunch underfoot winds tension tighter.
Simple yet consistent actions – an ice-cube applied to a neck, a sweat-soaked shirt – create an unbearable and suffocating atmosphere. This sort of attention to detail, particularly in the brilliant set design and costume, is the production's greatest strength. Marion Potts' vision is clear, coherent and powerful, and there is a strong sense of ensemble work amongst the criminally accomplished international cast. Ruth Sancho Huerga is a particularly energetic and unifying presence in her role as the Servant. The two lovers' performances, however, at times appear one-dimensional. Yet at only eighty minutes, the greatest disappointment is that it all happens too fast.
There is no time to resist or analyse. You can only be carried along the torrent of Lorca's language, right into la raíz oscura – the 'dark root' of the human heart.
By Ruth McHugh-Dillon