Watermill - The Gentleman from Olmedo
14th April to 22nd May 2004.
From the Newbury Weekly News.
Pride and the passion of 17th-century Spain
The Gentleman from Olmedo, at The Watermill Theatre, until May 22
Lope de Vega has been called the Spanish Shakespeare, he and our English playwright being near contemporaries, but I doubt that Shakespeare could have written this play. The pride of family and position, obedience to parents and to the Catholic Church, are all Spanish.
A stranger comes to Medina from the rival city of Olmedo. He sees Inez and she sees him; they fall in love.
However, Inez's hand is sought by Don Rodrigo who has her father's favour.
There are two conniving servants who help the plot and the intrigue along. And a lovelorn sister, Leonor, and her suitor, Pedro. You get the drift of the plot?
At the interval, the various plans to avoid one suitor and marry a second seem on the way to a happy ending.
But after the interval, as nurses used to forecast, there were tears before nightfall.
The costumes are all either black, white or red. The scenery is solely a wooden platform strewn with red rose petals, backed by a wooden wall, in which there are flaps which open to convey windows and doors. But the spectator has no difficulty in seeing gardens, houses, the bull ring and a dark and lonely road.
The productions which The Watermill puts on are rarely less than excellent, and in this the sights, the sound effects and even the smell coming from the new oak used in the set are memorable.
Do book your seat; chuckle at the humorous one-liners in the first half, and have your blood chilled in the second.
I hope you will come away feeling that you have experienced something out of the ordinary as my family did.
From the Guardian.
Reviewing Dog in a Manger last week, Michael Billington described
it as: "The Duchess of Malfi played for laughs." The Gentleman
from Olmedo is Romeo and Juliet with bullfighting. It also has
more humour than Shakespeare's tragedy, and, in Jonathan Munby's production,
the streaks of light and dark, laughter and desolation are played to
perfection. Eerie songs of doom mingle with songs of celebration; poppy
petal confetti adorns the stage, which later in the performance seems like
globules of blood.
This stylish play, a mixture of comedy and tragedy, is by a Spanish contemporary of Shakespeares, Lope de Vega, and stylistically has lots of similarities to Shakespeare. But this is a modern translation, which makes it much more accessible. It bounces along at a great pace, on a completely bare stage, and its extremely watchable. If you like Shakespeare but find it a bit heavy going, try this one instead. The modern language means that you can get into it very easily, without having to think about the words too much.
From the Sunday Times.
Lope de Vegas play, one of his best known, is classified as a tragicomedy I cant think why. True, there is comedy, provided by Tello, the heros loyal servant, a standard comic figure known as the gracioso, who aids and abets, but also satirises, the heroics of his master. Michael Matus is brisk and shrewd and funny in the part, and Nick Barber gives Alonso, his master, a sense of fine aristocratic elegance. Alonso is the tragic focus of the play, which is partly about marriage and the obstacles women can face in having the men they love. More importantly, the play is about the destructive rivalry between Spanish political factions. It is set in Medina, but Alonso comes from Olmedo, which makes him a suspect, possibly a dangerous outsider. Jonathan Munbys production is tense, swift, lyrical and sardonic; the atmosphere is proudly and effortlessly Spanish, without any of the inept posturing that used to spoil so many English productions of Spanish plays. Were getting there.
From the Daily Telegraph.
You wait years for a play from the Spanish Golden Age, then blow me down,
along come five at once.
There's a four-star review at WhatsOnStage ("stirring, atmospheric production").