Review: Fuente Ovejuna! at Flight Path Theatre

Review By James Ong

The newest show in Flight Path Theatre’s 2021 season, Fuente Ovejuna! is a playful and unique production that draws upon classic theatrical techniques and methods to craft an oddly modern narrative. We follow the titular small village of fuenteovejuna, as they are repeatedly pillaged and oppressed by a ruthless Spanish commander and his lackeys who abuse their power in increasingly vile and manipulative ways. The town, led by their resilient and determined young women, eventually rises up and fights for their own. The original text for Fuente Ovejuna! dates back to 1619 and is inspired by an actual town’s revolution that took place in 1476. Director Angus Evans draws upon this nearly 600 year old tale (with some revisions to help it translate to a 2021 audience) to craft an engaging and powerful theatrical experience.

Live guitar and percussion (Edward Hampton and Liam Peat) were an understated, but very valuable tool throughout the production, throwing the audience immediately into 15th Century Spain and helping to create slick transitions and strong emotional beats. These are also accentuated by some well-calibrated lighting design from Jas Borsovszky that runs the gambit from soft and subtle tones to striking shadow and silhouette work.

One of the more charming elements of the show was the depiction of the Royals - represented by looming and domineering face puppets, with absurd and comedic features. By design, the King, Queen and Master are in stark contrast to the rest of the show, highlighting their disconnect. Their caricatured portrayal (which is met with consistent scores of laughter from the audience) is played to perfection by Tristan Black, Madeleine Worthington and Shayne de Groot, who chew the scenery in all the best ways. This was in direct opposition to dark portrayals behind the main antagonist, the commander. Here, Evans made the unique decision to have this pivotal role be taken on by the entire cast, with each actor taking turns in donning the character’s ghoulish mask and helmet. It became quite fascinating to see the variety of ways that his pure villainy was portrayed and the different nuances that shone through from scene to scene.

However, the peak of the show for me came in a scathing and slightly unexpected monologue from Lucinda Howes as Laurencia confronts the passive men of her village that surround her, and tearing them down for their inability to stand for their supposed morals and protect their loved ones in any meaningful way. This feels the most salient point of Fuente Ovejuna! in 2021, the call to action for men to act in a way that aligns with the honour many claim to live by; opposing tyrants and standing up for the rights and freedoms of women.

It’s clear to see the concentrated and potent passion from the full cast and crew here – distinct design and committed performances all combine to make this centuries-old show feel current and alive. The broad-brush allegories do come through as a little dated at points, but the core message of resisting

Images Supplied by Fuente Ovejuna Team