Exploring the greatest new and classic plays


Harriet Walter as Bernarda Alba
National Theatre
December 2023
Photo by Marc Brenner


073 – The House of Bernarda Alba, by Federico Garcia Lorca

Jan 3, 2024 | Podcast Episodes | 0 comments

The eponymous matriarch in Federico Garcia Lorca’s unsparing drama The House of Bernarda Alba is one of literature’s most compelling figures. She keeps her five daughters under close and cruel control, ostensibly protecting them from the potential violations of local men and the stain of village gossip. But Bernarda Alba’s repressive regime will provoke the very outcome she fears, an act of rebellion with tragic consequences.

The play is not only a tragic family drama, but its portrait of oppression and social conformity also reflects the dangerous political landscape in which it was written. Lorca finished the play in June 1936, two months before he was murdered during the first days of the Spanish Civil War.

As we record this episode a production of The House of Bernarda Alba in a new adaptation by Alich Birch is playing at the National Theatre in London, directed by Rebecca Frecknall. It stars Harriet Walter as the ferociously domineering matriarch, and a wonderful cast who play the daughters desperate to escape the prison of this house.

I am delighted to have the opportunity in this episode to learn more about this inescapably powerful play, and its author, from an expert on both. My guest is Professor Maria Delgado, who is Professor and Vice Principal of Research and Knowledge Exchange at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

Maria Delgado


Professor Maria Delgado is Professor and Vice Principal of Research and Knowledge Exchange at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. She has published widely on Lorca’s theatre and afterlives, including a 2008 book, Federico García Lorca  published by Routledge, as well as specific articles and chapters on Lorca and this play. She has also contributed to BBC radio programmes on Lorca, including In Our Time and Free Thinking.

Recommended Play

Maria recommended Fefu and Her Friends by Maria Irene Fornés.

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