THE exclamation mark in the title of A Blood Wedding In Wensleydale!, coupled with the subtitle of Three Fights, Two Weddings And A Funeral, indicates that Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding has taken a turn for the not so serious.

From the stepladder-climbing originators of the Olivier Award-winning West End and Broadway hit The 39 Steps comes a re-imagining of Lorca’s torrid tale of feuding Spanish Civil War families, set rather close to home in the farming communities of the Yorkshire Dales.

Sacrilege, you say? Not so, protests Nobby Dimon, artistic director of North Country Theatre, the Richmond rural touring company, which has collaborated with Harrogate Theatre for the first time for a world premiere that opens in Harrogate tomorrow evening.

“Blood Wedding is an iconic play, very highly regarded by people in the theatre but actually very little known outside that world,” he says. “It’s not a play where the general public says, ‘Oh yes, I know what that is’.

“Like all students of drama, I first read it at university and it figures as a play that breaks away from the rather stodgy drama of the early 20th century, moving into a more symbolic style…but I’ve always thought, even when studying it, that it was melodramatic.

“To the English style of culture, we find that high-passion drama rather difficult to take. We see it as quite foreign to us; that thing of the Spanish being hot-blooded; we like it but remain to one side of it or slightly cool to it.”

Cue Nobby’s version of the story, wherein Leonard returns to Wensleydale from fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War to find his childhood sweetheart about to marry an old rival. Yorkshire custom and tradition may demand grim-faced acceptance but Leonard has been infected by the hot blood of southern Spain.

What happens? “Between flamenco-dancing sheep, haymaking and throwing haymakers, the wedding celebrations soon descend into farce and then tragedy, with the Dairy Maid of Doom forever lurking by the Cowshed of Calamity,” reveals Nobby.

As the director of a rural touring company, two aspects of Lorca’s play appealed to him. “Firstly, it’s a play about family feuds in a rural community,” he says. “Yes, it was originally set in Spain, but the basic situation is love and marriage in small communities… “…And then there’s that thing of inter-marriage and isolation from the rest of the world; that all seems to ring true in the Dales as much as in Andalucia – but at the same time, the English tend to have an ironic take on such things.”

Nobby duly takes that opportunity with his Wensleydale variation on Lorca. “It also turns out that one of my favourite books, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, was written at the same time as Lorca’s play – in 1932 – with its English way of sending up small communities…and I just thought that would be the way to deal with the subject, as it’s more in keeping with the English style and the North Country Theatre house style,”he says.

Two worlds collide in his play. “In one sense it isn’t Lorca’s Blood Wedding that we’re doing. I’m taking huge liberties with it, taking certain characters out, but I’m also retaining certain Spanish elements,” says Nobby, who will play The Father in a cast of five.

His research at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes revealed overlaps between the Dales and southern Spain. “When I talked to the museum staff about the idea of family feuding, they said that was typical of the Dales. Many of the wives recognised the situations as being just like in the Dales,” he says.

Lorca’s tragic play finishes with two deaths, but will North Country Theatre’s version do likewise? “That’s been in the air in rehearsals, really, because I’ve taken a much more light-hearted approach and to end with a double death does seem rather heavy. In rehearsals we’ve been seeing how it feels with different endings as there are ways that it could be resolved slightly differently,” teases Nobby.

“One of the elements that Blood Wedding has is fatalism, and that’s something familiar to rural communities; that sense of what will be, will be, and going with the flow rather than against the tide, when modern youth culture’s way is to go against whatever your parents like.”

Did you know?

A Blood Wedding in Wensleydale! will mark Nobby Dimon’s return to Harrogate Theatre after 15 years. He spent eight years there as director of theatre in education.

North Country Theatre & Harrogate Theatre’s A Blood Wedding In Wensleydale! runs at Harrogate Theatre from tomorrow until Saturday at 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm on Saturday; Richmond Zetland Centre next Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.30pm; then on tour until December 4. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116; Richmond, 01748 825288.