Kicking sand in the face of critics of unstageable theatre

Impossible Theater - The Trickster-function in the Theatre of García Lorca
April 12, 2001

The earliest serious discussions of Lorca's work were Jungian. Approaches based on gender study and sexuality have since accumulated in impressive numbers, but Lorca still is difficult to pin down. Thus, Sarah Wright's mode in this intelligent book is especially appropriate. The trickster is the master of deception, the mischievous mixer of the sacred and profane, everything we can never get the better of (Jung), nom mise en abyme . No idea could be more promising as an introduction to Lorca studies.

Moving between anthropology and psychoanalysis, stressing the liminal nature of the trickster, Wright looks at the author figure in La zapatera prodigiosa , the duendes in Amor de don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín , tackles the "impossible" play Así que pasen cinco años , and provides a provocative discussion of the moon as trickster in Bodas de sangre .

Don Perlimplín , dismissed by Buñuel as rubbish, is actually an important step along the way to the unstageable theatre. The duendes ' meaningless chatter comments on the play's instability, which allows us to read it as a series of masques that cover nothing, or a Beauty and the Beast in reverse, or a rite de passage in which liminality seems to produce no change. Wright points out that in Así que pasen cinco años , Lorca challenges the traditional view of masculinity and finds in androgyny a space to stand apart from the culture of his country and time. In his discovery of the Angel Flores translation of The Waste Land , Lorca saw at once the significance of Tiresias, the "wounded seer", the male-female witness of coupling in history.

Bodas de sangre may seem to be the tragic story of star-crossed lovers on the surface, but its true depths display the struggle between two men. The groom and Leonardo hack each other to pieces offstage, the only true expression of Eros in the play, while the ferocious love that Leonardo and the bride felt for each other remains a Liebestod fantasy.

Occasionally, the specialised vocabulary seems to outweigh the texts themselves, but Wright understands the material well and keeps a proper distance from obfuscation, able to balance Jacques Lacan with Robert Louis Stevenson or Roland Barthes with Alexander Pope. Male fantasy, masochism, androgyny and scatology are shifting perspectives in Lorca's theatre that, with the aid of the trickster, are effectively coordinated.

Theatre for tomorrow, impossible theatre, theatre under the sand, whatever you call them, these plays testify to the continued presence of Lorca on the world's stage. Caridad Svich has provided powerful translations of Don Perlimplín and Así que pasen cinco años as well as renderings of 13 poems from Poeta en Nueva York .

Svich allows Lorca to speak directly and avoids an effort to make him sound literary. Lorca reads fluently in her translations, which have been successfully staged in the United States and Britain.

Lorca's poetry influenced a young generation of North American poets in the 1940s. Now we can judge, with the help of Svich's translations, how Lorca has haunted Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard, among others.

Howard Young is professor of romance languages, Pomona College, Claremont, California, United States.

Impossible Theater

Author - Federico García Lorca
ISBN - 1 57525 2288 1
Publisher - Smith and Kraus
Price - $19.95
Pages - 168
Translator - Caridad Svich

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