Theatre review - Yerma

By Federico García Lorca in a new version by Anthony Weigh

I’ve seen a number of versions of Federico García Lorca’s YERMA over the years, but this co-production by the Gate and Hull Truck, must be one of the best. This is largely down to Anthony Weigh’s pared-down adaptation of Lorca’s classic and Natalie Abrahami’s beautiful staging.

Fifteen-year-old Yerma, newly married to Juan, arrives in her husband’s village determined to be the model wife. But as the seasons pass, and she fails to conceive, Juan begins to spend more and more time tending his sheep and Yerma seeks help from a local soothsayer with tragic consequences.

In the title role, Ty Glaser, initially a little over-breathy and earnest, soon settles in and conveys Yerma’s childlike naivety about sex, about conceiving and bearing children, about her husband and, later, her acceptance that she must be at fault, with an intensity that is heartbreaking to watch. She is well matched by Hasan Dixon as Yerma’s intransient, controlling husband who, Weigh suggests, is conflicted by an unresolved passion for another man.

YERMA, set in rural Spain and originally conceived as a tragic poem, is not an easy work to adapt for a contemporary audience, but Weigh succeeds in drawing out plenty of modern resonances. He concentrates on the damaging isolation of Yerma’s obsession, intensified by the pity of her friend Maria (Alison O’Donnell) who has babies “gushing” out of her”, as well as Juan’s ambivalence and the manipulative way in which he tries to deflect blame from himself.

Ruth Sutcliffe’s impressive sea of sand evokes a barren landscape, suggesting heat and aridity, at the same time as reflecting Yerma’s passionate nature laid waste by her despair.

Skilled performances, sensitive direction and an accessible text combine to make this YERMA a triumph. A wonderful evening of spellbinding theatre.

Originally published by Theatreworld