(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The beginning of Kfir Azulay’s vision for Blood Wedding is so visually dramatic that your breath almost stops – and indeed, where do you go from there? Headlong into a dark tale driven by a culture of blood, death, greed and lust, played out amid darkness in Yehudit Aharon’s tall black box of a set that’s lit by movable rows of globe lamps, serried ranks of little moons (and the moon, as we know, is a symbol for lunacy and death). The costumes (also Aharon) are also mostly black.
None of the characters, except one, have names. They’re called by their function; the Bridegroom (Tom Avni), the Bride (Avigail Harari), the Mother (Shiri Golan) and so forth. The exception is Leonardo (Tom Hagi) because seen or unseen, he’s the catalyst for all that follows. Seen or unseen, he is Nemesis; Azulay deliberately draws parallels to classic Greek tragedy: the Young Girls and the Young Men, innocence gone, are here a black-clad chorus. The prescient Woodcutters become the Three Fates.
Symbolism abounds in the songs set to Elad Adar’s marvelous music with its deliberate dissonances, songs to the stallion (rampant masculinity, potency), to being a bride (innocence, desire), to the treacherous moon, the vagaries of fate.
How did Shakespeare put it? “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends/Rough hew them how we will” (Hamlet).
The hard facts of the tragedy? Approving the unity of their extensive lands, the Mother and the Father of the Bride (Yonatan Tcherchy) approve the uniting of the Bride and Bridegroom. But the Bride was once engaged to Leonardo, a romance the Father ended because Leonardo was poor. The wedding is celebrated – the reception is brilliantly portrayed by shadows on a sheet like a Javanese puppet play – but before the lustful Bridegroom can consummate the union, the Bride and Leonardo run away together. Inevitably he and the Bridegroom die and the Mother, who has lost both husband and elder son to clan conflict, is now bereft of all her men.
And how many here are in a similar situation? On both sides? It’s the Mother, bitter, relentless, unforgiving, who is the center of Blood Wedding. She’s a stretch for any actress, but Golan is more than any actress and she latches onto the Mother like a hungry shark. Hungry also describes Tom Hagi’s restless, powerful and powerfully sensual Leonardo. There’s a viscerally erotic scene between him and the Bride in the forest.
Tom Avni’s neatly nebech Bridegroom tries to project a masculinity he hasn’t got, while Harari’s Bride is beautifully torn between her fear of and her desire for passion, aka Leonardo.
The always versatile Tcherchy makes the corrupt Father a work of art – the handkerchief floating from his little finger is inspired. Ora Meirson, though her reading of the Wife (Zohar Meidan) lacks nothing, and scales a new summit as Death with her dispassionate, ironic reporting of what has been, and what now is, so much so that the two young men are so uselessly “killed for love.../With a knife/that penetrates deep/through the startled flesh...” as the Mother says.
Azulay intends, I think, to jolt us, to jerk us into awareness of what we’re doing here, and he nearly succeeds. So very nearly. If only he had let his (and Lorca’s) perceptions do their own talking – but he’s so busy signaling “pay attention, this is important” that the message itself falters.