This show finished on Saturday 16 March 2019, and this page is being kept for archival purposes only.
In this bold new multi-sensory adaptation, Lorca’s 1934 age-old themes will be rendered contemporary, as the play follows a young woman driven to the unthinkable by her desperate longing to conceive a child.
A young woman is driven to the unthinkable by her desperate longing to conceive a child. Yerma, meaning barren in Spanish, is tortured by her inability to conceive and becomes increasingly consumed and disoriented by her pain.
Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 piece challenged the social order of the time and the claustrophobic expectations of a rural Spanish village. It is relevant in our world of pressure and expectation, where women can be just as crippled by the judgment around them.
In this bold new multi-sensory adaptation, Lorca’s age-old themes will be rendered contemporary.
Show Advisories: Violence.
Latecomers may not be admitted.
Tickets on-sale here.
Cast Scarlett Stitt
Cast Gordon Stackhouse
Cast Eve Simpson
Cast Georgie Rodgers
Cast Georgina Carey
Co-Director (and designer) Laura Hounsell
Co-Director (and designer) Jane Prinsley
co-set designer Mark Fernandez
Producer (and designer) Dominika Ucar
Stage Manager Aspen Pattinson
Technical Assistant Emma Hunt
Technical Manager Nancy Strahan
Monday 18 March - By Reuben Fox McClure for The Student
[no star rating given; number greater than 0 must be input to render review]
“A childless woman is like a bunch of thistles — something fit for God’s rubbish heap.”
Such are the poignant words uttered by the eponymous Yerma, the latest EUTC production to grace Bedlam’s stage — and grace it it does: the production, co-directed by Laura Hounsell and Jane Prinsley, is a profound success — one of the best of the season, constituted by stunning production and superb performances that do more than mere justice to Federico García Lorca’s timeless script.
Lorca’s 1934 piece traces the struggle of a young woman, Yerma (Scarlett Stitt), whose desperation for a child stands in torturous conflict with her inability to conceive. Lost without purpose and powerless against her situation, Yerma is increasingly estranged from those around her, her husband and the claustrophobic village community that reenforces such notions of womanly worth. Cast between her principles and her powerlessness, she is consumed by her yearning — not only for a child, but ultimately for mere autonomy.
The maturity of Lorca’s writing is excellently delivered by the entire cast. Stitt strikes a consistently outstanding performance throughout every element of Yerma’s dramatic character arc, always with keen nuance. From endowing Yerma with a longing wit at the play’s outset to capturing her utter existential torment in the closing scenes, Stitt’s performance is subtle yet affecting, honestly and realistically delivering a starkly pained character with whom the audience cannot help but emphasise.
Stitt is complemented by a cast of equally high calibre, in particular Gordon Stackhouse and Laura Maskrey as husband Juan and the ‘old woman’ respectively. Apathetic and unloving, Stackhouse’s disciplined performance accentuates Yerma’s isolation, embodying her helplessness in his indifference. Likewise, Maskrey is the personification of the societal expectations of womanly value that cause Yerma such anguish, performed with a grating boisterousness against which Yerma’s good heart and morals are made apparent.
The overarching success of the EUTC rendition is foremost found in its inspired production decisions. Taking place on a dynamic set that effectively switches between interior and exterior, the play’s costume and stage design constructs the stifling rurality of Andalucian village life with engrossing flair. Central to the success of the production is the original live music interwoven with the performance. Composed by Eve Simpson and performed both by a chorus and the main characters, the acoustic guitar, violin and vocals not only further immerse the audience in the folkloric setting, but go as far as to supplement Lorca’s writing through a new, non-dialogical exploration of the characters. This is certainly no mean feat.
The audience leaves Yerma with a heavy sense of the cruelness of the human condition, both biological and societal. With a mesmerising production and hauntingly affecting lead, Yerma sets a new standard for student theatre.
Saturday 16 March - By Robert Peacock for The Wee Review
Barren… Empty… Withered… Useless…
The unhappy childlessness of the protagonist in Lorca’s 1934 play is not allowed to be a private, personal sorrow. It’s subject to judgement (and self-judgement). It attracts slurs like those above. It’s taken as fair game for others’ prurience and gossip. However she feels about it herself, the childlessness of a married woman is seen as a fit topic for village pump tittle-tattle.
Lorca’s original might not be entirely benign towards its lead character. It might be implying outrageous things about the effects of childlessness on a woman’s mental state and the lengths it might drive her to. But it’s clear from this EUTC student production, directed by Laura Hounsell and Jane Prinsely, where our sympathies should lie. Yerma, played engagingly by Scarlett Stitt, is a woman of strength and principle, with hopes for her life that are not unreasonable. But she’s buffeted by cruel, outside forces – a callous husband, an intrusive community, the constrictions of her time.
It’s taken as given that we’re to apply a modern feminist reading to this, although the production has kept the play to its original setting. Set design (Ben Saunders and Mark Fernandez) presents a rustic scene with trees that double as maypoles and the pillars of Yerma’s wooden house. Costume (Katie May Anderson) is traditional. A dusky yellow/orange light (Nancy Strahan and Emma Hunt) illuminates.
Stitt’s performance is obviously key. It’s palpable how othered she feels, the distance her childlessness is putting between her and other women. As the piece progresses, so does her desperation, though more world-weariness and hard-won wisdom would enhance the performance. Even at her lowest ebb, there’s a brightness about her, as if the gravity and permanence of her predicament has yet to fully dawn.
Husband Juan (Gordon Steakhouse) also misses some darkness. He ratchets things up for angry moments but feels neither domineering nor particularly set in his ways. When he talks of his disinterest in children, it’s in a manner that suggests a boyish ambivalence to the prospect lurks underneath. With a fair wind, you sense he might even change his mind. This tips the power balance towards Yerma and means the dialogue is sometimes at odds with the on stage chemistry.
The chemistry is also askew with fellow shepherd and Yerma’s erstwhile lover, Victor (Jacob Baird). He looks the part, with a Poldarkian mop of wavy hair and troubadourian folk singing, but his body language isn’t hinting at frustrated lust quite the same way the dialogue is.
The pair’s musical duet is sweet though, as are all the folk music interludes (composed by ensemble players Eve Simpson and Ally Shilson). An ensemble ceilidh scene has an enlivening effect too. Ensemble acted scenes on the other hand lack dynamics. No-one seems to be revelling in the gossip quite enough.
To modern eyes, Yerma (the play, not the character) feels slightly one-dimensional. Its narrow focus, straight narrative and lack of interweaving plotlines don’t leave much work for the audience. But you can see why it’s been chosen by the company and they make a decent fist of it. Women’s approach to motherhood continues to be scrutinised in all sorts of ways and while a married woman without children might not be viewed quite as suspiciously now as then, there’s still something that resonates – the speculation over her sex life, the suggestion she’s in the wrong, even some of the superstitions… No longer do women meet old pagans at night in graveyards to pray for babies, but the internet and magazine racks are full of mumbo-jumbo tips on conception. This student production wants for a bit more fire and spark in places, but invites some interesting reflections.