Persian adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba explores themes of jealousy and sexual tension in a time of mourning

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      In the Firehall Arts Centre's version of a classic play by Frederico García Lorca, the action moves from a rural Spanish town to a village in Iran.

      Toufan Mehrdadian’s Farsi adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba features repression, jealousy, love, and sexual tension taking place in the home of a bereaved Iranian widow, Ehteram Sadat.

      The character of Sadat is the Persian version of Bernarda Alba, and she declares an eight-year period of mourning for the death of her husband while ruling the family with iron-fisted authority.

      Mehrdadian, a well-known Iranian actor and director, says the repression and suffocation that take place in The House of Bernarda Alba is an “illustration of the current situation” all over the world.

      He added that Spanish poet and playwright Lorca’s masterpiece is played everywhere because “everyone sees their shared pain in it.”

      “In some ways, my work is different from Lorca’s original play. I didn’t just want the dark and bitter environment of Lorca’s play so I have included some joyful moments as well,” Mehrdadian told the Georgia Straight at a rehearsal in downtown Vancouver. “Lorca’s piece highlights a stark atmosphere full of women’s jealousy and competition to reach the opposite sex, which you never see in the play. But in my work, love is a key theme.”

      The play will be performed in Farsi, also known as Persian, with English surtitles.

      Torkan Wahedi Rajabi, who plays Sadat in the Farsi adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba, told the Straight that the play demonstrates the “suffocation in our own society”.

      “We have Iranianized the play and have tried to illustrate the repression that is happening in our own society,” Rajabi said.

      The House Bernarda Alba was the last play written by Lorca  in 1936 before his death during the Spanish Civil War.

      Director Toufan Mehrdadian has added Persian components to his Farsi-language adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba.

      Often grouped with Blood Wedding and Yerma as a “rural trilogy”, The House of Bernarda Alba centres on events that take place in rural Spain. It was first performed in 1945.

      Following her husband's funeral, the powerful matriarch Bernarda Alba—who wields total control over her five daughters, the housekeeper, and the grandmother—effectively imprisons her daughters in the house during the lengthy time of grief.

      Elnaz Rezaei, who plays Aziz Joon (or Grandmother María Josefa), said the Persian interpretation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba shows how women were living in rural Iran some eight decades ago.

      “We have added Iranian folkloric songs, Persian classic dances, and other traditions and literature, which were practised among the Iranian women in a certain period of time, to the play," Rezaei noted. "Even though Lorca’s piece is not related to Iran, it still reflects the same social environment."

      The play explores themes of passion and jealousy, and the exclusion of a male character helps build up a high level of sexual tension throughout the play.

      Vancouver is the first city that Mehrdadian is taking his Farsi adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba to the stage; however, the cast is hoping to embark on a tour to perform it in other cities across Canada, Europe, and even Iran, someday.

      The House of Bernarda Alba will be performed from Wednesday (June 12) to Sunday (June 16) at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre.

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