This early 17 century play is from one of the most celebrated authors from what is called the Golden Age of Spanish Theatre, Lope de Vega, and here adapted with sometimes necessary vicious energy by director Angus Evans of Dream Plane Productions. Fuente Ovejuna, roughly translated as the Sheep Fountain, is based on historical events involving the brutal methods deployed by a deputed Commander over a town in the midst of a battle between royals in 15th century Spain. As the story goes, the people rose up, and killed the small-town tyrant after his unpunished violence against the townspeople, and were themselves punished.
In this creative staging (which has musicians onstage providing music that seamlessly blends with action), the royals are portrayed with giant face puppets operated by ensemble members, and a bit of shadow-puppetry thrown in to portray violent scenes. The Commander, always recognisable for his leering dell’ Artemask and conquistador helmet, is played by a different member of the ensemble from scene to scene, suggesting that anyone, in some circumstances, might become so monstrous.
The plot involving heroines and heroes meeting in the woods and enjoying a teasing, playful sort of courtship. Laurencia (Lucinda Howes) and her female friends, including Pascuala (Madeleine Withington), exchange banter about men, while the men chase after them with words of high praise. When the dark presence of the Commander arrives, the inhabitants of Fuente Ovejuna are forced to make unconscionable decisions.
This is an engaging play, with a balanced rhythm between showing, telling, comedy and chaos. Even at nearly three hours it never flags. The main detraction was the finale, which, though heartfelt, felt out of place. The staging speaks for itself, and does not need a PS.
Until Apr 11. Flight Path Theatre, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville. $25-$35+b.f. Tickets& Info: www.flightpaththeatre.org