The collected interviews of Jim Mulligan

Beckett performed by Groucho Marx

But is all this relevant to young people today?

Lucinda Coxon was scrupulous about her role as translator of The Shoemaker's Incredible Wife.

When you translate you have to slow your blood down. It's an incredibly slow process but it was a great labour of love. It became a meditative exercise. I decided I would leave in the loose ends and the murky, messy bits because they are the play and it's not for me to tidy up Lorca's work. He had revised it many times and it is his play. It was my job to serve the play and release it.

The plays of Lorca are usually set in the rural Spain of the time when he was writing, in the 1920s and 1930s but since that society had scarcely changed for generations the plays feel as if they are set far back in time and in a society that is nothing like ours today. But Lucinda Cozon thinks The Shoemaker's Incredible Wife is relevant to young people today.

Lorca is very much a writer of the twentieth century. Although he was friends with Dali and Bunuel we do not see him as a modernist but you could talk about Sartre and Beckett in the same breath as this play. It's a play that champions the imagination. Lorca himself often played The Writer when he was touring the show. It's a fantastic opening full of disingenuous charm. 'Ladies and Gentlemen, do relax. We won't frighten the horses. No need to be anxious. There'll be no surprises. You're in for a lovely quiet night at the theatre.' And then he pulls the switch. It's a great act of theatrical bravado. And it's very funny. Young people love this play.

The Shoemaker's Incredible Wife is a play about relationships and how we constantly re-invent ourselves and each other and the world around us in a way that transcends a narrow political reading such as saying it is a play about the role of women. The wife is young, in some ways still a child who is afraid of the dark and eager to play games with a boy, not much younger than herself. She lives in a town where she has a limited set of options. She has no money and nowhere to go. And she has made a marriage of convenience to a much older man.

You can tell that Lorca is passionate about The Wife. Even though she's insufferable for a lot of the time, he loves her. She is intelligent but she is not in control of herself. She can't figure out how to get her husband to love her. She's amazed and shocked when he leaves but when he comes back in disguise they manage to express their love for each other in a way they could never do face-to-face. You sympathise with him. He never has a quiet moment. Every time he sits down she comes in. She's provoking him, trying to engage with him. I don't think this is a woman who is withholding sexual favours. This is a woman who is looking for a fuck.

The Husband is a fifty-four-year old boy. He has been looked after by his mother and then his sister and he is astonished to find himself in a house with a woman who does not want to mother him but instead wants a peer-relationship with him. He is incapable of responding to his wife and in the end he leaves in order to find himself. When he returns they realise they need each other and he desires her in a way we certainly do not see in the first act. Their declaration, however, can only take place in the context of a play.

When the Husband returns he puts an audience on the stage and we have a play within a play. The whole town comes to watch the puppet show, so we as the audience are able to watch an audience experiencing what it is to be an audience. We are able to see the puppet show bring about a great cathartic realisation that raises the emotional temperature of the town and brings about an act of violence in the street. The power of this theatrical performance is such that it changes things materially in the world and we are able to watch that. I think that's glorious.

Roughly speaking Lorca has given us the seven ages of man, ranging from The Boy through the middle-aged Shoemaker to doddering Don Mirlo, all characters in a play that is completely circular. It ends as it began but not precisely where it began. People are changed but there is a very strong sense that the society Lorca depicts requires people to fulfil certain roles: the unattainable beauty looking out of her window; the man of authority who has to go for a lie down when he sees the petticoat hanging out to dry; the neighbour with all the children; the pious, judgemental women; the hen-pecked husband; the sexually frustrated young wife. Those were the constraints on two people trying to find themselves. That they realise they need each other, love each other and desire each other for the first time is a triumph for them and a triumph for Lorca as a writer. But is all this relevant to young people today?

Any relationship is partly a performance. It's how we conduct our lives in public. If you are a teenager, the stuff you show the world is something you think about quite a lot. You are vulnerable and self-conscious. You are in fear of your emotions. The world will narrow you and shut you down if it can but this farce can teach you to reach out in all directions without toppling over. Keep it simple. Keep it in the moment. Keep the shifts fast and simple and this extraordinary play will be like Beckett being performed by Groucho Marx. It has a wild dynamic about it but you have to have a very steady centre to pull it off.