As a regular theatre-goer, there are times when you experience a good play, a moving play, a funny play, a dramatic play or an utterly downright boring play. And then there are those rare occasions when you witness a truly brilliant play. I had that very pleasure last night at the Young Vic here in London.
Based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 tragic masterpiece Yerma, reset in 21st-century hip London society. Yerma is a devastating story centred on a successful blog writer who reveals her daily life in every detail to a growing audience. The main topic of the play is her increasing obsessional desire to have a child. Over the one hour 40 minutes (with no intermission) we witness Yerma's marriage and life spiral out of control to the depths of despair.
The audience views the actors encapsulated in a glass box, taking up the entire width of the stage, in a series of cinematic jump cuts spanning several years. Each scene appears out of total blackness punctuated with projected captions and increasingly heightened music and sound design.
The two standout performances are from Billie Piper, in the main role as Yerma and Brendan Cowell as her husband. The pair work in perfect unison in their endless, brilliantly written, verbal battles, culminating in Piper's frighteningly out of control, utterly spent human force. If you have ever witnessed a husband or a wife in this catastrophic state you will recognise the truthfulness of Piper's wonderful performance dredged up from her emotional centre. It is and astonishing piece of visceral work.
This is one play where the collaborative talents of writing, directing, stage design, lighting, music and sound, plus the astonishing performances, all come together like a perfect symphony orchestra. Catch it if you can.