Off West End Review

Yerma – Young Vic


I left the Young Vic in pieces. Infertility is something that is very close to my heart. It’s a very raw emotion that as a family we have endured, painfully watching close relatives undergo round after round of IVF with no success. It’s heart breaking and there is little consolation.

It’s with this that Simon Stone’s Yerma certainly strikes a sensitive chord. Billie Piper is a thirty-something woman yearning for a baby of her own and becomes utterly consumed by her inability to conceive that it destroys her.

Stone catapults Lorca’s 1934 masterpiece right into the heart of modern day. The play begins with ‘Her’ Piper and boyfriend John (Brendan Cowell) celebrating their first home together in an affluent part of town, sipping Veuve and eating pizza on their plush carpet. She’s a successful lifestyle journalist writing her tell-it-as-it-is blog and he’s a business bigwig, flying all over the world to meet with clients and sign deals.


John’s hardly ever there and with the absence of him and the absence of a child, Piper’s frustration and isolation plunges her into a dark and intense obsession from which she can’t get out of. Piper is a natural and electric performer, she is intoxicating and captivates to gigantic proportions. Her portrayal is shattering and unbearably devastating to watch as she screams ‘I CAN’T’ when John tries to save her sanity by asking her to let her desire go.

Brendan Cowell is equally an incredible match to Piper. He’s the highly successful, self-assured man whose materialistic life of supping champers, wearing chinos and eating avocado on toast becomes irrelevant. His limits are tested and pushed to the max and when the gutsy, flirtatious woman he married slips away into a dark depression, all of his reasoning and despair can keep him no longer.

Lizzie Clachan’s outstanding design takes its shape in the form of a glass enclosure, with the audience peering in from the outside. A voyeuristic cage. The set is minimalist and stark and only bursts with life and furniture when Her and John look after her sister’s baby – a strong metaphor for the fulfilment a child could bring.

Stone’s suffocating production certainly has a profound affect. What begins as humorous, playful banter about shaving lady parts, grows in great intensity that ultimately shatters in a powerful hour and forty-five minutes. Piper is the star of the show and truly gives the performance of her career. She leaves you simply breathless and completely broken and without a doubt of the sheer brilliance of this collaboration with Stone. A real five-star production.

Yerma runs until 10th September at the Young Vic

(Photo courtesy of Johan Persson)

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