The House of Bernarda Alba

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Image courtesy of W!LD RICE

By: Fitri Handa Yani and Clarence Lim

The House of Bernarda Alba tells a tragic tale of a family ridden by anxiety, revenge and death. The tale revolves around the matriarch, Bernarda, her five oppressed daughters and her two revenge plotting servants. 

This poignant masterpiece captures the whole spectrum of human emotions and the acting entices us to feel the raw feelings of the leads.

The 2 hour play, directed by Glen Goei was adapted from acclaimed Spanish playwright Feferico Garcia Lorca. Glen expertly transposed Lorca’s original family to a Peranakan household in Singapore, with the noir set bringing out the timelessness of the Peranakan culture.

The first scene struck a chord in the audience’s minds with the angst-ridden vulgarity-laden dialogue between 2 of Bernarda’s servants, shedding light on life in the household under the iron grip of the matriarch.

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Image courtesy of W!LD RICE

The play appears to be a feminist piece with its all-female cast. However, it is clearly defined by the male characters who are absent; the death of Berdarna’s husband and the infamous Pepe el Ramano we never get to meet. Besides, Berdarna’s authority is confined within the house belonging to her father and grandfather. In a way, the roles of women are restricted by the men in their lives and it soon becomes evident that the women would never escape the patriarchal system.

Also, in trying to protect her daughters’ purity, Bernarda has deprived them of their agency as women. They are trapped within the walls of their own home, mournfully submitting to Bernarda’s strict moral codes. Though they are prohibited to interact with men, their thoughts are infested with the images of them. This too suggests the inherent domination men have on women in that society.

As the play progresses, it becomes evident that the prim and proper appearances of Bernarda’s family were all but a facade, with deep layers of conflict and hurts sandpapered over by a tight uncompromising authority.

With an experienced cast, The House of Bernarda Alba successfully gives Lorca’s version a touch of local flair and brings out the repressive culture of the Peranakan’s society.