Spain on the brink of an abyss, the rise of right-wing extremism and women kicking against the torments of a repressive male dominated society, Federico Garcia Lorca’s last play, The House of Bernarda Alba, is certainly both timeless and topical. Passion, sexual tension and love burn inside the five daughters of matriarch Bernarda and have to be controlled and repressed in the name of conformity in 1930s Spain, writes Ingrid Gray. 

Completed two months before Lorca’s savage death, aged 38, at the hands of fascist oppressors in the Spanish Civil War, the drama exposes the constrictive parameters for women within their families and wider society at the time.

We begin the journey in a small Andalusian town in the midst of mourning the loss of a patriarch, Bernarda’s second husband. The play goes on to reveal the tragic consequences of female submission to strict tradition and social judgement.

The tyranny of Bernarda is portrayed with such power by Mary Conlon. Intense fury and fragile vulnerability are visible in the physical rigidity that she uses to control the entire female household. The fear and rebellious urge of the daughters is tangible in their performances. Maite Jauregui’s wild-eyed performance as Adela captures her yearning desire for freedom and love as a release from the shackles that bind her to her domestic isolation.

The performance I saw was in English but the Cervantes Theatre also performs productions in Spanish. It is suitably located within the large Spanish speaking population of South London and it is wonderful to discover a theatre dedicated to showcasing Spanish and Latin American plays in English and also in their original language. The theatre, created by The Spanish Theatre Company charity, is an inviting and intimate space, beautifully structured. I will be back.

The House of Bernarda Alba is on at The Cervantes Theatre, Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR until December 2nd. Times: (Spanish)Mon – Wed 7.30pm, Wed matinee 2.30pm; (English)Thur – Sat 7.30pm, Sat matinee 2.30pm. Admission: £20, £15 concs. Phone: 0203 633 4406