YERMA / Simone Stone, Young Vic

A 1 in 4 chance of loss.

A 32.2% success rate under the age of 35, reducing to 27.7% between 35 and 37.

A deadline, a ticking clock, a biological timebomb.

The modern language and reality of struggling to conceive a child have become inadvertently brutal, distilling what was once personal and familial grief to statistics made public.  Trying (failing). Round 1. Round 2. Round 3. Ding ding, you’re out.

Engaged in this battleground with her own body, Yerma was first conceived by Federico Garcia Lorca in the 1930s, when the expectation in rural Spain was one of natural progression from marriage to parenthood. Catapulted here to modern London by director and adaptor Simon Stone, the argument perhaps shifts to the idea that with affluence, with technology and medical advances and willpower… should these miracles not be possible? Why can love, effort and IVF not be enough?

As she spirals in and out of control of her increasingly consuming desperation, Billie Piper’s Yerma is searing in both her extremity, and her familiarity. To watch this piece as a woman who has ever considered having a child is to be pricked again and again by fears and questions; those that can usually be pushed aside every time YouTube’s ClearBlue ad prompts that there is Something You Should Be Doing with your precious years of fertility. 

Conversely, our unchanging desire for the spectacle of female distress ought to be wondered at. That Yerma can seemingly shred her own life, relationships, career and financial stability without anyone being able to truly reach her, or indeed for her to remember herself outside the posited form and function of her own body, seems the ultimate spectator sport. We are the Romans and she the lion, pacing its cage, waiting to be victorious or torn apart. That much, at least, is unchanging. (MH)

Yerma runs at the Young Vic until September 24th

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