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Theatre Trip Review - "Yerma" at The Young Vic, London

21st September 2016

On Wednesday 7th September, the drama department took year 13 students to see a modern production of ‘Yerma’, at ‘The Young Vic’ in London.

A review of the play:

Australian director Simon Stone has re-invented ‘Yerma’ in a thoroughly modern way. Originally written in 1934 by Federico Garcia Lorca; one of Spain’s most celebrated dramatists, the play was originally set in the traditional, rural community of Andalucía. Stone re-imagines the play in a modern setting, in a wealthy London suburb, whilst successfully translating the themes of marriage, love and infertility for a 21st Century audience. The heroine of the Greek-styled tragedy, ‘Yerma’, (which tragically translates to mean ‘barren’) struggles to accept her childlessness to the extent of obsession. There is also the suggestion that her mother’s cold affections could be the base of Yerma’s obsession, wanting to care for her child in the way her mother chose not to. Her mother, who described pregnancy to feeling as if an alien was living inside of her. Meanwhile, her husband- John, worries principally over the opinions of his friends and business partners, begrudging the personal confessions Yerma gives on her lifestyle blog. Stone encapsulates the traditional worries over a family’s name and reputation through the husband, whilst adding the new dimension of transparency in this digital age. The blog provided dark revelations of Yerma’s thoughts, including her secret wish her sister would miscarry her child.

Performed at The Young Vic, Yerma maintains the theatre’s reputation for updating plays. The use of theatre in the round, and Lizzie Clachan’s glass box stage, emphasised the notion that their whole lives were on show. It also allowed for dramatized transitions between apartment and garden settings. The use of blackouts, loud music and the allusion that it was raining on stage added to the emotional power of each scene.

Billie Piper was central to our reception of the play’s harrowing themes, in her convincing portrayal of Yerma’s anguish and obsession. Brendan Cowell particularly excelled at showing John’s struggles, not knowing how to help Yerma and in still loving this altered woman. The deterioration  of the relationship reaches its pinnacle when they get married, until with child or without their relationship clearly cannot last. When Cowell defeatedly admits to not wanting a child, he reveals their financial difficulties having accumulated £60,000 debt from twelve rounds of IVF. In my opinion, this element came across as quite unrealistic, not being something most people could even consider, and especially not Lorca’s original character being a farmer’s wife. Stone also alters the play’s ending, Yerma takes her own life rather than strangling her husband like in the original. Nonetheless this ending elicited strong emotional responses, with Yerma stabbing herself in the womb, to finalise that she will never be able to have children. This was largely in part due to Stone’s ability to ‘retain a complex depth of emotion and preserve the timeless themes that run throughout the core of the play’ as described drama student ‘Conor Field’.

In Summary, the composition of acting, directing and writing skills produced such a shocking effect on the audience, that it is likely to be a play they will never forget.

Amber Yoofoo

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