The National Theatre Live movie of Yerma by Simon Stone (director/creator) after Federico Garcia Lorca is one of those must see productions. It is the classic 1934 tale of Yerma (Spanish for “barren”) by Federico Garcia Lorca, but updated from rural Spain some time before the Spanish Civil War of 1936 in which the playwright lost his life to contemporary London.
Billie Piper is a successful journalist simply referred to in the script as “Her”, desperate to conceive but unable to do so. The play details the five years of Her attempts to fall pregnant, together with Her journey into depression and insanity and the horrifying climax.
UK critics awarded the production five stars. It is not without its flaws. The set is a glass box and the lights have to go out for every scene change and some kind of timeline is inserted into the darkness, a device which I found quite irritating. The soundscape by Stefan Gregory inserted into the darkness starts out with a religious feel and becomes increasingly strident and difficult to bear, tearing at one’s emotions as the action develops. However, there is no doubt that Ms Piper deserves every one of those stars as well as the Olivier and Evening Standard Best Actress Awards. She is utterly wonderful in the role of the unnamed woman who is overly neurotic and obsessed by Her infertility.
Her co-star, Brendan Cowell, who plays Her lover/husband, John, is sometimes overshadowed by Her stage persona, but the sympathy which starts out with Her shifts to him, and then moves back and forth between them as the play unfolds.
Maureen Beattie plays the role of Her mother. Charlotte Randle plays the role of Mary, Her sister. Victor is played by John McMillan.
I loved the glass (probably Perspex) box set by Lizzie Clachan despite its obvious technical challenges. As John refers to the petri dish one is reminded of the set, which also foreshadows the heroine’s all too revealing blog about Her journey with infertility.
Interestingly, Yerma will be closing its second Young Vic run on 23 September 2017 in London. The movie was made during the 2016 run.
Yerma can be seen at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban on Saturday 23 September, Wednesday 27 September and Thursday 28 September, all at 19:30, and on Sunday 24 September at 14:30. The running time is approximately 100 minutes and there is no interval. Strobe lights are used. Booking at www.sterkinekor.com
The 2018 National Theatre Live screenings will commence on 13 January with Young Marx, Follies from 17 February and Julius Caesar from 21 April.