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Fuente Ovejuna, CLF Art Café

Lope de Vega

Adapted by Tangram Theatre Company
Directed by Daniel Goldman
★★★★★
Pros: Has theatre ever been this fun?!
Cons: I don’t know the meaning of the word.
Our Verdict: Theatre at its best, simply do not miss it.
Courtesy of Tangram Theatre
Lope de Vega was Spain’s most prolific and famous author under the ruling of Felipe II of Castilla and I of Portugal. He wrote over four hundred plays, around a million dramatic verses through his fifty years as a dramaturg. Fuente Ovejuna is one of his most celebrated ‘tragicomedias’, sewing together uncontrollable laughter with the roughest of passions. His plays were fun, chaotic, and symbolic of the most important themes in the society of the day.
Fuente Ovejuna is based on a true chronicle. It tells the story of a town of the same name where the villagers, and especially the women, are oppressed and abused by Comendador Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, played by James Marshall. Laurencia – the Mayor’s daughter played by Hannah Boyde – has refused the Comendador’s advances and has fallen for Frondoso (portrayed by Andrew David), the gallant, cocky villager chasing after her. Around them, the political theme of the play unravels: the Comendador is plotting against the Catholic Queen and King of Spain by besieging Ciudad Real and openly defying their claim to the throne. The town of Fuente Ovejuna is oblivious to any of this, and the villagers go about their lives causing mischief and trying to stay out of the Comendador’s way as much as they can. Amy Loughton, Anthony Best, Andrew David, Caroline Kilpatrick and the Tangram cast give life to the villagers of Fuente Ovejuna.
The above description seems to give a very bucolic setting; intricate verses with some intellectual comedy. Nothing could be further from the truth! The play is fun, energetic, dynamic, gripping and dark. There’s music, dancing, tears and torture. A true tragicomedia that Lope would be proud of. 
Daniel Goldman and his cast give a rapturous re-interpretation of one of Spain’s classics. The fourth wall is completely destroyed. From the minute you enter the CLF Arts Café you are part of the town as one of “the new members”: the Mayor himself came over to introduce himself and thank me for my work as Fuente Ovejuna’s butcher! Frondoso woos Laurencia to musical classics such as Frankie Valli’s I Love You Baby and The Supreme’s Stop In The Name Of Love, to which Laurencia fairly replies with some Bon Jovi of her own: You Give Love A Bad Name.
But it is not all fun and games, the Comendador mistreats Laurencia and desolation sets over the town. Masterful acting accompanies the despair of the villagers; Laurencia delivers grief and wrath for what has been done to her, making hairs stand on end. James Marshall is simply riveting as Fernán Goméz, breaking the simple, light-hearted happiness of the villagers with the sombre tones in his acting. 
The play is shaped from themes of love, honour, treason and collective power, and monarchic defence. The classic outline Lope de Vega gave his play is by no means lost in this new take as the themes seep through the dialogue, jokes, tears and cries for help from the villagers. Lope’s verses are shaped to the rhythm of our time. It takes the vivid tones of classic Spanish drama to give a rich and vibrant picture that fits today’s expectations of a thoroughly entertaining theatrical experience.
My advice: sit back, grab a beer and enjoy the chaos and dance! A better theatrical experience – from the acting to the story to the setting – is yet to be found. ¡Todos a una, Fuente Ovejuna!
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Fuente Ovejuna runs until 8 September at the CLF Art Café, Bussey Building. 

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