Billie Piper in Yerma: Theatre Review


I saw Yerma more than a week ago and I haven’t been able to write a review until now because I was so blown away by it. I didn’t know what to say except ‘wow’, which is hardly the basis of an articulate review so I hung around until I could formulate my thoughts.

Billie Piper stars as an unnamed women who wants a child so badly that she becomes obsessed with getting pregnant until it takes over her life, alienates her from her husband (Brendan Cowell) and friends and drives her completely mad.

As someone who isn’t set on having children, I feared I wouldn’t be able to connect to this story but I was wrong – and that’s all down to Piper’s tour de force performance. Whether you like the play itself or not, that one aspect is undeniable. I don’t want to post spoilers so let me just say that the transformation from where she begins as a fun-loving, happy, career-focused woman to where she ends up (moody, depressed, hateful) is impressive and so believable. It happens so subtly that you don’t even realise what’s happened until afterwards when you look back and think of the journey her character has taken. I never watched Doctor Who or The Secret Diary of a Call Girl so I know Piper best as a pop star and she’s certainly proved her acting chops to me, although she probably had before to everyone else. The performance is fearless, gut-wrenching and she goes from being a person you like to a person you hate or pity. If she doesn’t get nominations for this I will be amazed.

Piper took up the majority of my thoughts and is the main reason to see this play by far. Cowell was fine but he seemed ill-matched to her and a tad too old but the rest of the supporting cast were strong, even if they only popped up occasionally. There is also John MacMillan as her former lover, Maureen Beattie as her mum, who isn’t a fan of affection, Charlotte Randle as Yerma’s sister and Thalissa Teixeira as her young assistant.

The staging was also impressive. The audience sits opposite each other looking at a raised stage that’s shielded by glass/perspex on all sides and gets increasingly dirty to mirror Yerma’s mental decline. The lights went down and people and items popped up within seconds and at times the stage was completely transformed from a lounge, to a garden covered in fake grass and a muddy festival field. During these frequent changeovers, small TV screens are used to inform the passing of time and provide what is essentially chapter titles, which was fine, but the music and singing track behind it was weird as hell and brought me out of the show and made me laugh. That’s the only aspect I didn’t really like.

As you can tell, this is ALL about Piper, who has been winning rave reviews across the board and it’s no surprise. She gives her all and she must be so exhausted afterwards – you could tell when she was taking her bow that she was still affected by the role, despite her smiles. The play is sold out and it has regular returns queues outside the Young Vic but I assure you, it’s worth it.

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