I am aware I am a little late to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘Billie Piper praising committee’ but it was only when watching the NT:live version of Yerma that I can now confirm I am an avid fan. God I am thankful for NT Live.
Lorca’s tragical, poetical and deeply moving play “Yerma” is in itself a masterpiece. Drawing on the issues of a woman’s role in society, the utter devastation felt of an infertile woman and an underlying topic of obsession. How far can an individual go in obtaining or managing an obsession? How long before the dream is dispatched? It is fair to say Yerma is a beautiful tragedy that many women will be able to relate to; making it all the more emphatic.
I hadn’t heard of Simon Stone until now and he has taken British theatre by storm. His modern adaptation of Yerma is flawless. His choice of modern comparisons of issues in Britain mirrored in the harsh ideologies of Spanish society are both lighthearted yet moving. His choice of overlapping dialogue conveyed issues from the start between the two protagonists – both relaying contrasting views yet neither one actually listening to the other. Even at the very beginning their inability to truly support one another forebodes the tragic end.
In Yerma we see Billie Piper in a completely new light. Both powerful yet incredibly fragile when it came to her modern day dissatisfaction. Yerma suffers an immense amount of self-pressure in setting herself a goal to become pregnant; her inability to do so leads to a frantic obsession where she begins to destroy all hope and happiness that surrounds her. We see Billie convey a successful, independent woman who becomes totally dependent on John (her husband) who in turn, voiced from the beginning that he was not too keen on having kids. Billie Piper was honest, beautiful and gave one of her most elegant performances to date. She did herself proud – well… obviously. It’s not every day you see any actor experience their character’s version of ‘hell’ and perfect it. Each emotion, each hurdle we wanted Yerma to succeed and Billie made it incredibly believable. The Olivier awards got it right.
Brenden Cowell: is he the new Russel Crowe? No – Tor; not all Australian actors are the same just because of their accent. Brenden as “John” was effortlessly convincing. He was an absolute pleasure to watch from start to finish and provoked constant reactions from Billie which aided to the overall ‘trapped atmosphere’ in the glass-box set. He was forever mirroring the regurgitation of words and sentences yet emphasising poignant phrases to perfection. His timing and stage presence were faultless and his line deliverance was inspiring. Brenden has opened my eyes to performing in an entirely different style. He relied on his ability to sense changes in the other actors; it appeared he trusted himself with everything. His lines were a part of him, it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t perform them differently every night depending on his emotional state. It was clear he had the freedom every actor wants; which is to be completely comfortable to expect the unexpected. E.g. a new emotion, a new reaction, a different deliverance. Brenden executes John with subtle humour that makes the audience systematically fall in love with him. We pity him as “Yerma” begins to try for a baby and milk him dry!
Scene it Tip 1) As per usual – check out the Young Vic‘s website. They are an avid supporter of new, innovative theatre and it’s great!
Scene it Tip 2) Simon Stone is now channeling all things performance on the international circuit. Toneelgroep Amsterdam give a good insight into his method of developing a script – it’s pretty damn cool. Here’s the link