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Yerma – Young Vic Theatre

September 13, 2017

(seen at the afternoon performance on 26th August 2017)

Better late than never is my own luck in finally getting to see this thrilling piece of theatre. Sadly, it’s also almost the theme of the play.

Based on the Spanish Lorca story of a woman whose only real crime was wanting a child to the point of obsession. Writer / director Simon Stone has updated the tale to feature London media folk, and the result is biting.

Billie Piper (Her – though I think the name ‘Louise’ was used once) is the deserved recipient of the 2016/7 Olivier Award for Best Actress. Through the fabulously voyeuristic devise of a reflective oblong (Lizzie Clachan), we see the heart and soul of a hopeful 30-something splinter. Every brave face, declaration of love, each moment of hope is just another cruel chipping away. Stone’s writing, however, manages to control the dramatic tension and hold shape over 100 unbroken minutes so that the final result is neither foreseen nor suffering the inevitability of melodrama expected of a lesser writer.

Piper may be at the centre, but partner John (Brendan Cowell) a businessman whose support is tested equals her performance. The movement of two matched career people in opposite directions while still keeping in step is fine acting – his confessions as genuine as her reactions.

Charlotte Randle (Mary) as the fertile sister with the unstable home life is a sharp counter-point, nicely relaxed about revealing the realities of motherhood. Mother of both Her and Mary, respected academic Helen (Maureen Beattie) has an even drier take on that matter – “Alien” being the simile. Beattie’s timing and characterisation are particularly impressive, capturing the development over time in fewer scenes.

Notes too for young Des (Thalissa Teixeira), friend and blog assistant, thrown in as a reminder of Her younger days. Equally Victor (John MacMillan), a small but key role in the narrative, is a neat reflection of John as things might have been.

Short scenes, with multiple impressive scene changes – applause for Rhodri Evans, Assad Jan, Tim Knight, Ryan Smalley, Sam Shuck, Sophie Rubenstein, Louise Quartermain and Ella Saunders as crew and stage management – work perfectly to give a period of life no couple would wish to live through.

Millions do, human biology defeating medical technology and triggering simple heartbreak. This tale serves the whole thing up without judgement, without glossing over facts and with an emotional punch to leave the audience staggering at the end.

 

5 Stars and a standing ovation to all involved, and more important, strength and hope to all those for whom this is less a fiction, more a living reality.

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