This is a love story, but a knotty one that doesn’t seek untying. How much Lorca’s commenting (in his early thirties) about love as he sees it around, how much working out his own confusions and sense of contradiction, is unclear. But the same could be said of Strindberg, and what makes this poetic play less popular than the Swede’s ‘big three’ is its use of Surrealism rather than Realism.
Any strange event (a dead cat talks to a dead child, for example) no sooner seems fitted into the scheme of things than it slides away. Though five years pass, these dead remain with us, inexplicable yet haunting. There are deliberate stumblings in the dialogue yet the cumulative force of all this is to give the final, strangest, image a climactic inevitability. A card game that might be an out-take from Un Chien Andalou, it’s fixed by 3 players who emerge to take on the Young Man, ending as he reluctantly surrenders his last card, an Ace of Hearts, to be stabbed through and cause his death.
It seems a natural outcome for the unsatisfied desires flowing from his Secretary to the Young Man, and from him to his uninterested Girlfriend, who calmly determines she’ll need to return his presents; played in a world of Harlequin and Clown.
The mix of reality and fantasy’s caught in Ben Stones’ design, which finds room in this small apace for several real objects, and a fireplace positioned in a cloudscape-wall out of Dali. Charlotte Westenra’s sympathetic direction matches the rooting realism and the flights of fantasy. It’s capably presented by a cast who compensate in willingness for moments of technical roughness.