Review: The House of Bernarda Alba

4 star rating
Passion, sexuality and repression make The House of Bernarda Alba as relevant and striking today as it ever was, brought to life here in a compelling and irresistible production.
The House of Bernarda Alba at The Cervantes Theatre

Image: Cervantes Theatre

Closes here: Saturday 3 March 2018

Federico García Lorca (translated by Carmen Zapata and Michael Dewell

Javier "Peke" Rodríguez

Jorge de Juan


Jimena Larraguivel (Criada English And Spanish)

Judith Arkwright (Maria Josefa Spanish)

Teresa Cendón (Angustias Spanish)

Amparo Climent (Bernarda Spanish)

Maite Jauregui (Adela English And Spanish)

Mary Conlon (Bernarda English)

Joanna Kate Rodgers (Angustias English)

Gilly Daniels (Maria Josefa English)

Pia Laborde (Amelia English And Spanish)

Lucia Espín (Martirio Spanish)

Mayca Estévez (Poncia Spanish)

Candela Gómez (Magdalena English And Spanish)

Carolina Herran (Prudencia English And Spanish)

Moir Leslie (Poncia English)

Beth Smith (Martirio English)


The House of Bernarda Alba explores themes of repression, passion and conformity through the depiction of a matriarch's domination of her five daughters.

Described by the author as "a drama of women in the villages of Spain", the deliberate exclusion of any male character from the action helps build the high level of sexual tension that is present throughout this masterpiece.


In the subtitle of the play, Lorca describes it as "a drama of women in the villages of Spain".

The House of Bernarda Alba was Lorca's last play, completed on 19th June 1936, two months before his death during the Spanish Civil War; he was summarily executed by supporters of General Franco, in Granada.

Born on 5th June 1898 in Fuente Vaqueros, Spain, Lorca is considered one of Spain's greatest poets and dramatists.

In the 1930s, he spent much of his time working on plays, including a folk drama trilogy Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), Yerma and La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba).

This will be the first production of The House of Bernarda Alba at the Cervantes Theatre.

The play will be performed in both English and Spanish:

English language performances - Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7-30pm, with a matinee on Saturdays at 2-30pm.

Spanish language performances - Monday-Wednesday at 7-30pm, with a matinee on Wednesdays at 2-30pm.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 15 February 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Federico García Lorca's play returns to The Cervantes Theatre after a highly successful run there last year.

The Cervantes Theatre is a Spanish playhouse right in the heart of London created by The Spanish Theatre Company which aims to bring the best Spanish and Latin American theatre to London.

The company could hardly have chosen a better play to showcase their work and that of its author.

The House of Bernarda Alba is not merely a great play, it is a masterpiece, renowned the world over.

And justly so, because this is an immensely powerful drama which was way ahead of its time when it was written and still has the power to effortlessly mesmerise audiences almost a century later.

The play has an all-female cast, giving much-needed opportunities for women to tackle demanding characters in our modern era where casting still often fails to be fairly split between genders.

Completed in 1936, just a couple of months before Lorca's death at the hands of nationalist partisans, The House of Bernarda Alba is a 'drama of women in the villages of Spain', as the subtitle explains.

Federico García Lorca based the work on his observations of a neighbouring family controlled by a 'tyrannical' widow who deprived her unmarried daughters of any kind of free will, dehumanising them so they appeared to Lorca like 'shadows'.

As the play starts, Bernarda Alba and her 5 daughters are attending the funeral of her second husband.

Once back in the family home, the controlling matriarch declares an 8 year mourning period, as her family tradition dictates, further isolating her daughters - women aged from 20 to 39 - who suffer the torments of being totally dominated by their insufferable parent who keeps tight control of every aspect of their daily lives in order to maintain "harmony in the family" and comply with the restrictive conventions of society.

But in the sweltering, unbearable heat of the Spanish sun, Bernarda's daughters are set on a path to conflict as eldest daughter Angustias is allowed to begin formal courtship with a handsome and desirable local man called Pepe el Romano, who has also attracted the attention of youngest daughter Adela who is intent on gaining her freedom as well as the man she adores.

Jorge de Juan's discerning and faithful production spares us little in terms of the anguish and agony suffered by Bernarda's daughters with scenes where they literally writhe to the accompaniment of appropriately doom-laden and disturbing music by Javier "Peke" Rodriguez.

Leading a fine cast, Mary Conlon is the formidable and tyrannical head of the household who cares nothing for the needs and passions of her daughters, ruling them armed with a cane that she uses to force them into submission.

She's well-supported by Maite Jáuregui as spirited daughter Adela who challenges her mother's authoritarian commands.

And there's good work too from Gilly Daniels as grandmother Maria Josefa and Moir Leslie as the grounded housekeeper Poncia who can foresee trouble brewing.

The ending is shocking, as is an earlier scene where the women of the household all bay for an unmarried woman of the village to be killed when she is discovered to have given birth to a child.

It's the complex mix of themes - passion, sexuality and repression among them - that make The House of Bernarda Alba as relevant and striking today as it must have been when premiered.

If you've never seen this extraordinary and remarkable play, it is most definitely a 'must see', here brought to life in a compelling and irresistible production.

The House of Bernarda Alba - Wikipedia

Federico García Lorca - Wikipedia

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