Desperate Measures: Federico García Lorca’s Yerma |

Desperate Measures: Federico García Lorca’s Yerma

Yerma, played by Bilie Piper, is the story of a young woman who is unable to concieve and the internal conflict between her loyalty to her husband, who wants none, and her desire to have a child.
Submitted photo to The Union |


WHAT: National Theatre Live presents: Yerma

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: Sierra Cinemas


Simon Stone’s searing reworking of Lorca’s masterwork won’t soon be forgotten by this reviewer, and I suspect by anyone who has been privileged enough to bear witness.

Billie Piper portrays a desperate woman driven to desperate measures. Her character’s name, Yerma, translates as barren, and that is what she is, as in unable to conceive a child.

That cliché of the biological clock tick-tick-ticking away forms the crux of the matter here.

Lorca’s original, set in the rural Spain of sheep herders and herbal cure-alls and intense social constraint, focuses on Yerma’s internal conflict between her desire to have a child and her loyalty to her husband, who wants none.

Stone has reset the scene from the Iberian bucolic to the contemporary British urban. That he has made this work strikes one as remarkable, given the deep, essential Spanishness of all Lorca’s works.

Yet Stone has found the universal through the particular in the heroine’s plight. He replied, when asked if his adaptation was the same play as Lorca’s: “No, but it’s the same myth.”

The minimalist arena staging reinforces the theme of exposure, nakedness. All is on view, nothing hidden, as the dialogue rips along at pace with brutal frankness and complete realism. Wow. Just wow.

Piper is magnificent; the accolades and awards she has received are more than earned in her devastating, emotionally vulnerable portrayal. Equally brilliant is Brendan Cowell as the husband. Their performances hurt.

Lorca was born in Granada in 1898.

His career as poet/playwright brought him into the sphere of the surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. His other major theatrical works include Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba, which have received numerous adaptations as ballets and films.

Yerma was adapted into an opera by Lorca’s friend Manuel de Falla and became a film (in Hungarian) in 1984.

Although during the time the time of the great upheaval of the Spanish Civil War Lorca somehow maintained friends on both sides of the political divide, he was murdered by right-wing forces on August 19, 1936, perhaps as much for his homosexuality as for his socialist leanings.

If you are a fan of terrific acting and can empathize with good people unable to help themselves, this one is for you. It is a deeply moving experience.

John Deaderick is a local theatre artist and the author of “Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis,” available at

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