Jenny Sealey and Kathryn Hunter redefine Lorca’s final masterpiece with the Royal Exchange Theatre

photo of actress Kathryn Hunter sitting in a change on stage under a green spotlight. Shadows of the daughters of Bernada Alba range across a brick wall at the back of the stage

Kathryn Hunter plays Bernarda Alba in Graeae and Royal Exchange theatre’s co-production of Lorca’s classic text

A bold exploration of female identity, sexuality and power: Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba is beautifully transformed for the Royal Exchange’s distinctive in-the-round theatre in a co-production with the trail-blazing Graeae Theatre Company.

The House of Bernarda Alba is directed by Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey, in a translation by Jo Clifford with the award-winning Kathryn Hunter in the title role. Deftly weaving the incredible talent of Deaf and disabled actors into this compelling drama, each performance creatively integrates British Sign Language, Audio Description and Captioning. The production will run from 3 – 25 February.

Jenny Sealey said: ‘I have wanted to direct this play for many years, and am thrilled to finally be doing so with this full-blooded translation by the wonderful Jo Clifford and in the unique space that is the Royal Exchange Theatre. Alongside this heated tale of competitiveness, danger and fragility, we’ll be weaving Graeae’s aesthetics of access into the fabric of the production, ensuring it truly is a landmark event, while showcasing the extraordinary talent of our Deaf and disabled actors.’

Bernarda’s husband is dead. Now she alone rules her household and the lives of her five daughters. A period of eight years mourning will be observed without contact with the outside world and the men who might bring them ruin. That is except for Angustias, whose inheritance has attracted a wealthy local suitor. As the wedding approaches, Bernarda struggles to retain her suffocating grip on the family and on these women whose appetite for defiance is growing.

Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom said: ‘We are thrilled to be making this show with Jenny Sealey cementing our relationship further with Graeae. Their work is synonymous with access, placing Deaf and disabled actors centre-stage and ensuring that every show is fully accessible, with BSL, captioning and audio-description seamlessly woven into the production. This is the first time audiences will experience work on our stage in this way. In January Amit Sharma will join us from Graeae, as part of the Arts Council’s Change Makers programme, to continue the work we’ve started here.’

Jenny Sealey co-directed the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony alongside Bradley Hemmings (GDIF). Recent credits for Graeae include BLOOD WEDDING, BLASTED, THE THREEPENNY OPERA, THE LIMBLESS KNIGHT, BELONGING and REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL. International work includes ROMEO AND JULIET in Bangladesh, BLOOD WEDDING in Tokyo and BELONGING in Brazil.

Internationally renowned award-winning actress and director Kathryn Hunter was born in New York and grew up in England. Winner of the Olivier Award for her performance in Dürrenmatt’s THE VISIT, Ms. Hunter’s other tour de force performances of renown include THE VALLEY OF ASTONISHMENT, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, KAFKA’S MONKEY and FRAGMENTS. As an actress she has worked with leading companies in the UK, USA, Paris and worldwide, including the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare’s Globe, and Peter Brook’s renowned CICT Centre International in Paris. She is also an associate member of the internationally acclaimed Theatre de Complicite Company.

The cast is completed by Natalie Amber, Hermon Berhane, Chloë Clarke, Philippa Cole, Kellan Frankland, Paddy Glynn, Alison Halstead, Nadia Nadarajah, EJ Raymond and Freddie Stabb.

The House of Bernarda Alba opens at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester from 3-25 February. More details are available on Graeae’s website.