Lorca is Dead
A lament in the key of surrealism
This article is from 2010.
Belt Up’s eulogy for Federico Garcia Lorca is anything but a stately affair. So much happens, and continues happening, all at once, in such a short space of time, that it’s impossible to pay attention to it all, and frequently difficult to know what is too significant to ignore; yet far from appearing frenetic, the action is suffused with a melancholy, restless unease. Someone has, after all, died.
While the nucleus of the surrealist movement – André Breton, Paul Éluard, Antonin Artaud, Louis Aragon, René Magritte and others – discuss important matters in the wardrobe, Salvador Dalí sits at Breton’s desk, distracting a privileged portion of the audience with a spoon strapped to a boule: a surrealist sculpture. This is the play in microcosm.
The surrealists re-enact Lorca’s life story, passing him like a conch among themselves and the odd audience member, touching on everything from his sexuality to his contribution to surrealism to his eventual execution by Franco’s firing squad.
Meanwhile, political, philosophical and personal differences are weakening the brotherly bonds between the post-Lorca surrealists. Simultaneously, Salvador Dalí is attempting to rewrite the history of the movement with himself at its centre, with help from Gala Éluard and a time machine constructed by Antonin Artaud. The play’s portrayal of ‘the divine Dalí’ is its greatest achievement: somehow both reverent idolisation and total character assassination.
The pace drops more than once when two plot threads intersect and the ensemble can’t change direction fast enough, and by the end threads that were pivotal early on are being tied off with single throwaway lines of exposition. It may well be fruitless to criticise the plot of a surreal play about surrealists staging a surreal play about a surrealist, but Lorca is Dead is demonstrably overstuffed.
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