StageScan Pick: Yerma

The Young Vic‘s Yerma received almost all four and five-star pro reviews. Henry Hitchings (ES) described Simon Stone’s “bold.. radical reimagining of Lorca’s poetic tragedy” and Sarah Crompton (What’s On Stage) saw “The distance between the strict morality of rural Spain in the 1930s and cosmopolitan, contemporary London… bridged in a blink”, admiring how it suggests “you don’t need societal pressures to become maddened by a longing for a baby”. Susannah Clapp (Observer) saw the central character “neither satirised nor indulged”. Paul Taylor (The Independent) felt Stone “bravely… complicates our sense of victimhood” and Crompton, who appreciated that “Yerma is not portrayed as some kind of doomed saint” nevertheless found it “impossible not to share her agony”. Hitchings also found the characters’ “anxieties … wholly plausible” and Clapp thought them “utterly contemporary”.

Most attention was paid to a “fearless” Billie Piper, whom Hitchings found “raw, ferocious, spellbinding”. Taylor reported the “gutting brilliance” and “devastating emotional force” of her depiction of a “descent from witty charmer into crazed obsessive” while repeatedly “offering aching reminders of the luminously winning young woman she once was”. Crompton praised Piper’s “immediate…access to feeling” finding her “superb” at conveying the character’s agony as she “moves from the laughingly flirtatious to the absolutely distraught in incremental and beautifully described steps” while “the light seems to die from her eyes”. Clapp found the performance “earth-quaking”.

She thought the partner’s “mixture of innocent affection and casual incomprehension… wonderfully played” by Brendan Cowell, and Taylor judged him “excellent”. Crompton hailed “terrific support” and Clapp found the “great” Maureen Beattie “perfectly acerbic”, praised “subtle and wan” Charlotte Randle and “beguiling” John McMillan and said Thalissa Teixeira “dazzles”.

She praised “extraordinary design” and Taylor reported “action… trapped within a glass box” which “increasingly makes us feel like the anguished voyeurs of some suffocating and doomed process”. Hitchings also observed “unsettling visual and acoustic effects”. Taylor described a production “both meticulous and merciless” with “grimly droll mid-sentence black-outs” and a “soundtrack of female voices whose harmonies begin to slither into dissonance” and praised “the hallucinatory panache” of rapid scene changes others called “breathless” or “miraculous”. Clapp saw “Lorca’s watery fertility images” suggested by moves from “bare house” to a “garden… first verdant, then shrivelled” and later a “mud-clogged Glastonbury”. She felt the “crucial… manoeuvres in and out of naturalism” also “loyal to Lorca” detecting “a liturgical movement” making it a “requiem for lost hope”.

Crompton felt the production “blows the dust off” Lorca’s original turning it into “a challenging play for today”. Hitchings found “the quality of the performances” rendered the whole “riveting” and Taylor found it “compelling… shatteringly powerful” and “provocative”, judging it “triumphant”.

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