Why do the Irish love Lorca? A review of Nostalgia

Nostalgia - Smock Alley

A‘I want to sleep just a moment, 

A moment, a minute, a century.

But let it be known that I have not died…’

 

Federico Garcia Lorca

 

I spent last year chasing the Spanish writer Garcia Lorca across the world; Granada, New York, he even took me to London. As I am not a Spanish speaker, I find it difficult to articulate the reasons for my obsession with Lorca. In search of some insight I asked Irish-born Lorca biographer, Ian Gibson, if he had an opinion on why the Irish love Lorca so much. He said that his friend Seamus Heaney felt that Lorca was a ‘kindred telluric spirit’ and this made sense to me; you get the feeling that whatever it was that Lorca found in the music and dance of Andalusia, he would find it in the trad sessions in the pubs of Castlewellan or Glencolumcille.  

 

It is always delightful for me, then, to find explicit references to Lorca in Irish culture. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to see this contemporary performance which marries Lorca’s Canciones Populares Antiguas and characters from his best known plays with Irish traditional music, flamenco and ballet. The production which was directed and choreographed by Lola Ros Gordon ran at Smock Alley Theatre as part of the Scene and Heard Festival.

 

Beautiful flamenco guitar played by John Walsh sat well beside our own Uilleann pipes (Dave Fadden), harp (Cathal O’Dwer Boyle), and the more classical sound of a violin (Darren Roddy). Wonderful singer, Rebecca Sanchez, made a bridge of Lorca’s words between the music and dance.

 

I loved the experimental nature of the performance. For me it provoked questions about womanhood and queerness, connections to nature, and societal constraint and expectation. Ana Belén Lopez Rodríguez, Joyce Richardson, Laura Tato and Pache gave stunning performances which left details to the audience’s interpretation while channelling Lorca’s frequent themes. A blinded woman dances with the moon; A grieving woman dances through the shedding of her physical burdens only to find that she cannot completely disconnect. At one point, using white theatre masks, life and death dance together, terrifyingly, in the body of one woman. I loved the macabre theatricality of this dance but the evening as a whole allowed for playfulness as well as darkness in the music as well as the dance.

At one point, using white theatre masks, life and death dance together, terrifyingly, in the body of one woman.

All of the musicians save for the singer were men and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was deliberate or a happy accident. The voice was that of a woman. In addition, women owned the floor space, and we were exposed to their struggles and conflicts. There is much discussion of Lorca’s women and whether or not his plays can be considered feminist. I feel like sometimes a better question could be what do Lorca’s plays tell us about women and men and the society they have built, affected and inhabited? Because whatever he was saying about gender politics, he was clearly asking questions of us as well. Nostalgia did an excellent job of posing those questions which are as pertinent now in 21st Century Ireland as they were in early 20th century Spain. Congratulations to director Lola Ros Gordon, and everyone involved in this very enjoyable and provocative piece of art.

 

I feel like sometimes a better question could be what do Lorca’s plays tell us about women and men and the society they have built, affected and inhabited?

 

Directed and Choreographed by Lola Ros Gordon

Cast & Musicians

Ana Belen Lopez Rodriguez (Flamenco Dancer)
Dave Fadden (Uilleann Pipes)
John Walsh (Flamenco Guitarrist)
Joyce Richardson (Flamenco Dancer)
Laura Tato (Flamenco Dancer)
Pache (Contemporary Dancer)
Rebeca Sanchez (Flamenco Singer)
Zoltan Laszlo (Hungarian Zither)

Nostalgia ran at the Scene and Heard Festival of up and coming writing which was held at Smock Alley Theatre in February

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