Reviewed by Mark Brown
In the early hours of August 19 1936, troops of General Franco’s fascist Falange took the poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca to Fuente Grande (the Big Fountain) amidst the olive groves north-east of his beloved home city of Granada. There, he was executed by firing squad.
Lorca was gay, left-wing and a revered artist. For the fascists, these were reasons enough to murder the greatest poet in the history of Andalusia, and one of the greatest in all of Spain.
It is in honour of Lorca and the wounds of Spain’s catastrophic Civil War that famed Flamenco artist Paco Peña has created his latest work Patrias (Motherland).
The piece interweaves projected moving and still images, recorded poetry and prose, and musical recordings from the period (both Republican and fascist) with live, ensemble performance (in song, dance, guitar, percussion and spoken word). The regard shown to moments of bravery and suffering on the Falangist side gives a greater moral authority to this unambiguously anti-fascist art work.
A song sung by Republicans during the war crackles on an old record player. As it fades away, Peña picks up the tune on his guitar, and as he plays, his dancers perform an evocatively balletic, controlled form of Flamenco.
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda laments his murdered friend Lorca as “a multiplier of beautifulness”. Lorca’s ghost visits us in a recording of his piano playing.
In every moment, the work creates meaningful and emotional connections between the historical material and the live performance.
It could hardly do otherwise. Peña is a master in the evocation of the beautiful, yearning, anguished concept of duende, which sits simultaneously astride desire and death. There is no better art form than Flamenco in which to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Lorca, the great Andalusian poet of duende.
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on August 31, 2014
© Mark Brown