Madness in Valencia White Bear Kennington 30 August 2009

lopedevega

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This was a translation of ‘Los locos de Valencia’ by Lope de Vega.

To start with, we saw the author (or madman Martin) revising the play in a cage while leaning on the madman Tomas. Then someone came on to announce that Fedra had damaged her leg so would have an extra prop in the form of a stick to play with.

And so we begin. We are in Valencia and Floriano appears in a panic having killed a Prince Reinero in a quarrel over a lady in Saragossa. He begs his friend Valerio to save him. Valerio suggests that he hides in the madhouse. Some mildly amusing exchanges with Tomas and Martin, a pair of inmates, ensue.

Then Erifilia (a young woman of the nobility) appears together with Leonato, her servant. They have eloped and Erifilia praises Valencia as a city for lovers.  Leonato robs Erifilia of  all her possessions and then runs off.  She is admitted to the madhouse, faute de mieux.

The administrator’s niece Fedra (green band) and her servant Laida (purple band) fall in love with Floriano, because he’s so good-looking.  Floriano is quite keen on Fedra (if also mad), until Erifilia enters, weighed down by a great burden of beauty.  They fall in love with each other to the accompaniment of philosophical speeches.  Laida imitates madness to attract Floriano’s sympathy and Fedra (with some vigorous hopping) imitates Laida imitating madness.  Valerio falls in love with Erifilia too and decides he is her cousin and will take her home.

Meanwhile Doctor Pisano has been doing an agreeably louche turn.  His cousin, an agent of law and order, appears with a portrait of Floriano.  Floriano and Erifilia engage in some noisy bits of business to persuade him it’s not him.

Fedra is still mad.  Her uncle the administrator is worried.

At the interval, Pisano elicited suggestions from the audience as to what to do with Fedra.  Some tender-hearted people suggested ‘tea’ and ‘TLC’, while I put forward ‘chlorpromazine’.

So the action restarts.  All agree that Floriano must ‘pretend’ to marry Erifilia to preserve her sanity.  Floriano agrees because the alternative is begging in the streets in honour of Shrove Tuesday and Erifilia is not unnaturally upset and goes off with Valerio.

The others attract the attention of a visiting nobleman while begging; Pisano invites him to the madhouse wedding.  Floriano and Fedra are about to be wed when Erifilia rushes in saying she can’t do it she loves only him etc.  In the ensuing confusion, the visiting nobleman turns out t0 be Prince Reinero, not dead only resting while his page lies in the grave.  Floriano and Erifilia are married, then Valerio says he will marry Fedra as long as she’s not mad only crippled and she says she was only pretending.  Exeunt omnes, apart from Laida who remains unprovided for.  So she calls them all back and they do it again da capo, except this time Reinero has a servant to marry her.

William Belchambers as Floriano was convincing after a bit of an uncertain start and Kathryn Beaumont’s Erifilia really was unbelievably beautiful as demanded by the text but unfortunately waved her arms about rather a lot; and Jonathan Christie as Valerio left a suitably ambiguous impression.

The play was fun and I laughed several times.  As translated, there was no poetry that made any impression and the pseudophilosophical bollocks exchanged by Floriano and Erifilia was just bollocks as opposed to leaving you wondering as in Shakespeare (or Calderon or Victor Pelevin).

But whatevs.  The men’s toilets in the White Bear were more reputable than they used to be, if still not exactly good.

There’s a facsimile of some old edition of the Spanish play to be found here.

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