Theatre Manjana, The House of Bernarda Alba

Review in Issue 8-1 | Spring 1996

Theatre Manjana are a group of Swedish female clowns whose vision is ‘to confront drama with the clown’. Here, under the direction of Nola Rae, they took on Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba. Bernarda Alba and her five daughters each wear a red nose. The mother, although just 142cm in height, manages to exert extreme control over her daughters.

By oversimplifying Lorca’s text and playing for laughs, the company blunt the dramatic impact and essential meaning of the play. The mother controlled her daughters through the force of her personality, her authority, absolute and backed up by long-standing tradition. Four daughters submit to their mother’s will, the fifth commits suicide. In this production the meaning of these actions was lost as they were not linked closely enough to the social and cultural context of the play. Women could not live independent lives outside of the family or marriage. For a Catholic to take his or her own life is an incomprehensible act of defiance against God. Theatre Manjana focused too much on story itself and not enough on the meaning of the play – the abuse of power which threatens the cultural and moral health of a society. However, this was a very brave attempt to adapt and portray a piece of classical drama through clowning. If you like clowning then you may have enjoyed it because it was well executed and there were some very funny and creative touches, which even caused me to smile.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 1996

This article in the magazine

Issue 8-1
p. 20