by Federico Garcia Lorca in a version by Anthony Weigh.
Gate Theatre above The Prince Albert Pub 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 17 December 2011.
Mon-Sat7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 10 Dec 3pm.
Captioned 15 Dec.
Post-show Discussion 22 Nov, 15 Dec.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 November.
Emotions made clear in minimalist production .
A sandy plain bearing only a virgin mattress greets the audience in Natalie Abrahami’s farewell production at the Gate. Few designs so sum-up the world of a play and its title as Ruth Sutcliffe’s, for Yerma’s name means ‘barren land’.
Anthony Weigh’s new version reduces the social aspect of the 1934 play’s Spanish setting. Lorca’s washerwomen are replaced by Yerma’s neighbour Maria. And Yerma seeks help from an outsider, the pipe-smoking wise-woman Dolores, comfortably established in her tree-seat, issuing scornful laughter when she finds the identity of Yerma’s husband. That laughter provides the moment which ends Yerma’s guilt, if not her agony. Her husband Yuan blames her for her childlessness, while she suffers a guilty longing for the local butcher Victor.
Neatly, Juan sees him off by starting a move for farmers to slaughter their own animals, depriving Victor of a living and removing his wife’s potential lover in one stroke – killing three birds with one stone, for Victor could also tell tales of the men’s youth which would explain Juan’s lack of sexual appetite.
Instead of which, the passing of the barren summers are marked scorchingly by Mark Howland’s lighting, totalling the wasted years on scorched sand, until Dolores reveals the truth to the agonised Yerma.
Sand and blazing light apart, there’s little Spanish about Abrahami’s approach. Ty Glaser is a pale, English Yerma, her potential for happiness and willingness to please eroded by the looming disregard of Hasan Dixon’s Yuan. Never overtly violent, the aggression in his manner works alongside the knife-bearing butcher Victor, much less of a lover here than usual in productions.
It’s not a world for someone who wants love. Glaser’s English Yerma is contrasted by her forthright friend Maria, a tough, independent Scottish country-girl who chats happily while visibly relieving herself into a bucket.
Mostly, it’s not a world where gentleness can survive. Both script and production provide a horrific grip in the casual domestic bullying by which Juan protects his social image through his accusations of Yerma’s infertility, in a version where Lorca’s lyricism is replaced by a theatrical poetry of implication.
Victor: Ross Anderson.
Juan: Hasan Dixon.
Dolores: Sharon Duncan-Brewster.
Yerma: Ty Glaser.
Maria: Alison O’Donnell.
Child: Charlie Brocklehurst/Fraser Kelly/Billy Kennedy/Felix Rubens.
Director: Natalie Abrahami.
Designer: Ruth Sutcliffe.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Sound/Music: Jon Nicholls.
Movement: Lucy Cullingford.
Assistant director: Laura Casey.