When Billie Piper appeared in Yerma last year, I tried to get a ticket and failed.
This year, the production returned to the Young Vic. Again, I tried to get a ticket, and failed.
It was announced that the production would be screened to cinemas via NTLive, but all the cinema screenings I found were sold out.
Finally, some Encore screenings were announced and I was at last able to get a ticket. I ended up seeing it at the Tricycle Cinema in North London.
So, was it worth all the effort? Basically, yes. Billie Piper gives an outstanding performance. Her character, Yerma, is desperate for a baby and while she starts out as a confident woman with a loving partner and a challenging career, as time goes on her obsession takes over and starts to come between her and her eventual husband (a superb Brendan Cowell), while her relationship with her sister (Charlotte Randle), who is able to get pregnant without problems, is also strained. The production jumps quickly from one moment to the next, sometimes moving months, sometimes years ahead, emphasising how the desire for a child is the common thread overriding every other wish in Yerma’s life.
The production is a modern-day adaptation by Simon Stone, set in modern-day London, of Federico García Lorca’s original 1934 play. As such it doesn’t capture Lorca’s intention of seeing Yerma’s story as symbolic of contemporary Spain. However, as an examination of one woman’s mind and desires it can hardly be bettered, drawing sympathy even from audience members like me who don’t share that desire. Stone’s language manages to retain a certain poetic power even as it reflects modern day speech.
I’m so glad I managed to see Yerma at last. Even though nothing can really replace seeing a play live, the cinema version is a pretty good second best, and when the play is as good as this, I’ll take whatever I can get.