Ok so this was a while ago now, but I had to write about this amazing experience of watching Billie Piper go through a lifetime of emotions in such a small space of time.
Simon Stone’s Yerma, a brilliantly modern adaptation of Lorca’s play of the same name was breathtakingly real, ugly and beautiful. Following the story of a couple who cannot conceive, this play explores the struggles and burdens of a modern couple, questioning whether their love for one another is enough to survive hardships and pains as well as conflicting ideologies.
This was my first experience (I hope of many) of the Young Vic, I had no idea what to expect. I was shocked by the scarce amount of seating until I realised the other half of the audience was on the other side of the stage (forgive me for my naivety/ignorance/blondeness). The stage was a glass cube. I was unsure how to react to this set up, however once the action began I realised what a great structure it was. The actors had to have microphones however the benefits were that it was as though we had a sneak peek at this couples real life. None of the movement or speech was conducted for our benefit, we were only onlookers. The fact that the audience was either side of the cubed structure did not matter as we could see the reflection of the action facing the other side in the glass (although I do wish I could have watched again from the other side to see another perspective.)
Piper’s transformation as the central character was so raw and real. When we first meet this young woman she is carefree, strong minded and a successful entrepreneur. Slowly she deteriorates from a determined woman to a desperate and lost soul. Following Piper’s emotional journey as an audience member was tiring, there was no point where there was a disconnect between Piper and the audience; and the levels of distress which Piper allowed us to see was surreal.
The couple put every penny and focus they had into having a baby. The struggle as a couple was hard to watch. Brendan Cowell’s character had the challenge of supporting his wife’s wishes even though physically and economically there came a point where there was nothing he could do to support her. I have put a lot of focus onto Piper however Cowell’s epic monologue was when I was most emotionally invested in the piece.
The most successful scene in terms of theatrical device in my mind was where Piper’s character was severely drunk at a festival. In a drunken haze she hallucinates, seeing both her husband and her ex when in fact they were total strangers. Using the actors of those characters a brilliant scene of mistaken identity was crafted.
The rest of the cast consisted of: the rival sister-driven to hide her happiness, the ex-a memory of times that could have been, the assistant-who represented the modern world of commercialism (using the inability to conceive as a marketing ploy) and lastly the mother, who’s dry sense of humour and unfiltered speech brought lightness and laughter into this otherwise fairly traumatic play.
I left the theatre absolutely speechless and emotionally drained and am so grateful that I managed to experience Yerma. It was the most natural piece of live theatre I have ever seen. It was certainly the most I’ve ever seen any actor give of themselves-how Piper even managed to take a bow is beyond me.
I look forward to having many more great theatrical experiences now I am living so close to Theatreland and hope to share my perspective on them.
Until next time,
Laura Joan xx