Yerma: modern play by Simon Stone (improvised in the rehearsal room) inspired by Lorca’s classic at the Young Vic where a woman (She) is driven to insanity because she is unable to conceive.
Glass box for stage, although I would label it casing. Are we being invited to view actors/ characters as specimens? Trapped like moths under a hot lamp whilst we the audience look on, unable, quite, to enter their world?
Are we being invited to consider the question: how can I relate? How do I relate to others? How far can we, do we relate to each other? How far can we, do we understand one another in real life? How much do we look at people through a glass box of our own creation, that is fashioned by social/ religious/ internal judgments and the media?
Break of 4th wall, twice: 1st When She looks after her sister’s baby. Audience lulled into believing the baby is hers. For the first and only time, the apartment is kitted out in furniture (so the set is an illustration of She’s heart or mind) and life. By comparison, there is less life in other scenes. We feel the loss of the baby on stage after even if we do not feel it as a loss for She.
Billie Piper as She breaks the 4th wall, holding the baby up to look out of the glass at the audience. Or does she break the 4th wall? What is the context when this happens? Everyone is looking at the baby because the baby is real, is not acting. Is BP being She or being BP when she does it and how does the audience see BP- as her or as She? How did I see her? How did I wish to see her? Show transcends itself at this point. Boundaries between what is real and what is not are closer than ever. Illusion. The audience also have the wool pulled over their eyes.
Reminded of David Jubb’s comment that theatre is dead if something unexpected happens onstage and none of the actors respond to it (citing the Chris Goode cat test). Actors responding to the uncertainties of the baby here. Life.
Otherwise, the rest of the experience of the play feels so distant. But is this not perhaps the experience we may have of someone when they are mentally, physiologically distressed? How do we break through the glass of our own perceptions to them and those in their world?
No matter how many times She vomits against that wall (the second time the 4th wall is broken perhaps) how do we break through?
Authorial voice: who has control of the narrative? There are layers of narrative and narrative control. There is a sense that what we experience live is being written as we experience it, given by the chapter headings and surtitles, giving a sense of how we should respond, either intellectually or emotionally to what is to follow. Is this She’s confessional blog (replaces Catholic confession) visualised for the audience? Is she writing her life and living it as she does so? Or, is it the director/ playwright’s hand here? Who has power? and who owns the narrative? She may struggle to voice her pain in her blogs, but there is a suggestion that there is a higher power than hers and there is hardly any redemption. Is this fate/ God?
Lorca was a self confessed anarchical-catholic. She might be able to control her own narrative, have moral freedom and choice rather than taking what life throws at her (i.e the abortion of her first born when she was in her 20s) but one cannot escape the sense of punishment and fate that is in the play, even when it is modernised to these times when she cannot conceive later. To be clear, when She could have a baby and conceived, she rejected it. Years later when she wants it, she is unable. Audience can choose how they wish to interpret this.
But this is more than being about guilt and punishment- if your interpretation is this. More than being about when and if and whether a moral choice can be made (i.e She in her 20s chose to elect moral freedom and choice as her guide, rather than accepting life’s decision) It’s about the body and the body’s ability to enact upon the mind and vice versa.
Now She is making the choice to have a baby but yet, in Lorca’s play, the universe, life, fate etc, is now not willing.
How do we reinterpret this in a non religious way? Where society is less superstitious and stifling? How do we explain She’s fate to ourselves? Would Lorca have written it differently or the same today?
What is the play about then? Guilt? Punishment? Obsession? Infidelity? John’s sexuality may be, just may be, called into question. Why is John not more concerned about Victor’s presence? His indifference points to something else perhaps.