Royal National Theatre (Cottesloe), London SE1
Opened 25 June, 1992

The production which (on its first run in 1989) spawned the recent revival of interest in Spanish Golden Age plays returns to the South Bank between representing Britain at Seville's Expo 92 and going to the Edinburgh International Festival, and it still captivates. Lope de Vega's tale of the 15th-century revolt of a small village against a tyrannical overlord is fashioned by adapter Adrian Mitchell and director Declan Donnellan into a stirring hymn to the passion of fellowship. "What's got into them?" asks the lord of his prisoner "Love," replies the latter.

Although romance and bestial lust are present, it's the love of a community that shines out. An initial air of being merely a succession of set-pieces vanishes as the several plot-lines plait together and the narrative gathers momentum. Rachel Joyce's Laurencia (the unwilling object of the Commander's base attentions) is free, assured and lively; her grief and rage, when they inevitably come, are the more overpowering for the contrast with her former character. The entire company, though, are uniformly excellent both as individuals and in inspired ensemble sequences. "Fuente Ovejuna did it" has apparently become a Spanish proverb and thankfully, it's still doing it.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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