On a moonlit evening in a symbolic garden of shadows, rosebushes and chirping crickets, the audience is spellbound in a performance of Lorca: Amor en el Jardin.
One of Lorca’s earlier works, El Amor de Don Perlimpin y Belisa en su Jardin, is retold in this charming performance. Perlimpin, an old and wealthy man is convinced by his devoted servant to marry. He is charmed by Belisa from her balcony, a beautiful, greedy young woman. What follows is a portrayal of seduction and deception on both sides, with consistently gripping tension and anticipation as the cast tempt and deceive the audience as well.
Lorca’s original is introduced in a prologue with four characters akin to the Shakespearean fool; wise narrators who are disguised in carnivalesque merriment and joking. If you’re a fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream then this might be the play for you. The narrators introduce themselves as ‘duendes’, meaning sprites. They celebrate the key moments in Lorca’s life, as if told by his own presiding spirits in the garden. Dressed in identical black worker’s jumpsuits and red pioneer neckerchiefs, they set their intentions straight from the beginning. There are broadly two types of people in an audience – those who are regular theatre goers, classy and cultured, and the ordinary people who might be considered uncultured. The latter are the performance’s most fertile recipients. They explain that the socialist Lorca was on the side of the marginalised: gypsies, black people and Jews. The moral hierarchy of the play’s characters places the servant, Marcolfa, on the highest rung, far above her wealthy master. Belisa and her mother are corrupted by the allure of Perlimpin’s wealth, as she greedily tries to obtain many more men from around the world in a single night.
Performed in Spanish, with English subtitles available on stage, the narrators preluding script is partially also in the form of some of Lorca’s original, incredibly beautiful poetry which is very atmospheric; “theatre is poetry that rises from the page” after all. Lorca conceived the piece in musical terms, and so guitars, clarinet and lots of Spanish songs ardently heat the stage.
When the play was first performed in 1929 it was confiscated by the police. Four years later Pura de Ucelay, a dynamic feminist, retrieved the script. Unlike most texts set in the 18th century, the idea of the woman as a dangerous temptress is upheaved. Perlimpin is the residing trickster, arguably more so then her. “I am my soul and you are your body”, are his final words to Belisa; he gives her a soul but in the process loses his.
For a night of infectious laughter but also sadness in a rare performance that begins to touch upon the consequences of money, misused power, and inequality, this performance comes highly recommended.