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Olives and Blood, Brixton East – Review

Michael Bradford 

Directed by Prav MJ
★★★

Pros: A cleverly constructed play in a great venue that may have you longing to visit Spain to soak up some history and culture.

Cons: I would have liked more detail and depth in the depiction of Lorca but all the facts and characters presented were necessary to illustrate the events so maybe it’s a good incentive to go and do some personal research.

Our Verdict: A well-rounded, entertaining and informative evening that somehow manages to evoke 1930s Spain in present day Brixton. Proof that a voice can’t be suppressed by a bullet.

Image courtesy of Liminal Space
Olives and Blood is the first full production to be staged at this new venue which was a furniture warehouse in a previous incarnation. It’s a great space; rough around the edges and with great character. I was met with a very warm welcome and ushered into the ground floor which serves as a bar area. In keeping with the Spanish theme, Estrella beer and a very good rioja were being widely appreciated.

I have to confess to not being clued up on Lorca or the Spanish Civil War but I do adore Spain, especially Barcelona and the surrounding countryside and coastline. History tells of the genius of Frederico Garcia Lorca. Best known for his plays (Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba) he was also a celebrated poet and talented artist. When civil war broke out in 1936, Lorca was seized and shot without trial by supporters of General Franco. He was 38. His remains have never been found.

The upstairs performance space was furnished with a desk at one side and an old bed at the other. The desk would belong to Lorca and the bed to Trescante, one of the men involved in the assassination. Thus we are presented with both sides of the historical coin. We are shown Lorca during the height of his celebrity; we’re told of his family, his background and his passion for writing. We see him being seized and his apparent inability to understand why he warrants such attention. Years later an investigation is launched into his death. It calls on Trescante to testify and through him we gain further insight into the events resulting in Lorca’s death.

I found the play dynamic, informative and compelling. It succeeded in providing an intriguing glimpse of an historical figure in an accessible and entertaining format. And if it all sounds heavy and intense then don’t despair; humorous moments were provided by The Actress rehearsing a part for Lorca and by the courier delivering the summons to Trescante.

My only issue was that I would have liked a more in-depth, rounded portrayal of Lorca. Louis Labovitch does a fine job with his role but I felt it was a fleeting summary of what I assume was a complex and highly creative man. A frustrated audience is not good but it may not be a bad thing to leave an audience inspired and wanting to know more.

The evening was rounded off back downstairs with a stirring and passionate recital of Lorca’s poetry and music by Denise Moreno and Matthew Wade. It brought you into a sultry, pastoral Spain and it was something of a shock to be back outside on a Brixton pavement in October.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Olives and Blood runs at Brixton East until 10th November 2013.
Box Office: 020 7737 4210 or book online at http://www.olivesandblood.com/

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