Live Evaluation Yerma


Production Facts / Introduction

Simon Stone's adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca's tragedy, Yerma, premiered at the Young Vic in July 2016 and starred Billie Piper in the lead role. The production won Best Revival of a play at the 2017 Olivier Awards and Piper won the award for best actress

Yerma is identified by Lorca as 'a tragic poem in three acts and six scenes.'. It was written in 1934, on the brink of the Spanish Civil War and the author's death

Yerma was adapted by Simon Stone for a contemporary woman in London whose modern relationship burns out and descends into madness as a result of her infertility. His intention was that 'it doesn't matter if you haven't experienced it first hand. You'll leave moved by a piece of drama'. 

Theatre in the 21st Century has to compete with many less time, money and effort consuming ways that narratives and entertainment can be accessed. Theatre is the most real of all art forms and its magic is in its presence and spontaneity

The performance style is built on naturalistic dialogue and interactions which paired in the traverse stage incaged in glass makes for a voyeuristic audience. Themes include the thought of motherhood being all-consuming and privacy vs. publicity

1 of 8


Her - 33-year-old blogger from London who becomes fixated on becoming pregnant. Become increasingly tortured, depressed and untethered. 

John - Tepidly on board with the baby project. Innocent affection and casual incomprehension.

Mary - Keeps getting pregnant. Kind, disappointed sister. 

Victor - A past, perhaps better-suited lover who pops us at all the wrong times. 

Helen - 'Cold as frost on a Scottish moor', an academic mother for whom being pregnant was like being invaded by an alien. 

Des - A reminder of Her's former self. 

2 of 8

Chapter 1 'Conception'

John and Her celebrate moving into a new home and he destroys her contraception as they agree to try for a baby. 

The couple does not move from downstage right sat in the corner on top of each other until the end when John jumps up and with childlike excitement tries to jump and break her birth control on the carpeted floor. There is a sexual attraction between the couple and their relationship appears vibrant. 

Naturalistic dialogue and interactions. Empty stage with just a white carpeted floor. Foreshadows her barren body. The set often includes removal boxes, also foreshadowing how this never seems like a permanent or happy home, apart from the opening of Chapter 2

They begin twinkling away with the awareness that they are a pampered couple with everything they thought they could wish for. 

Her wears a grey round neck jumper and leather skirt. Large black handbag, not particularly maternal. Contrasts Chapter 2. 

John wears black slacks and a beige jacket, with brown shoes. 

3 of 8

Chapter 2 'Disillusion'

  • Her is babysitting for Mary’s child and clearly loving the experience of caring for a baby. The way in which Her and John interact, their body language and facial expressions in particular, provide all of the information that the audience needs. It is a helpful change of pace to allow a little relief, before the heightened emotion and vocal work of later scenes take place.
  • Her: Blue denim dungarees over a white short-sleeved t-shirt. She has become more ‘motherly’ in the audience’s perception but we then realise that it is not her child. John wears a grey short-sleeved t-shirt, dark tracksuit bottoms.
  • James Farncombe’s soft lighting and Stefan Gregory’s dreamy music suggests that this is the least realistic scene in the play.
  • Softer, more yellow to represent a comfortable and happy domestic environment.
  • The only time their home fills with furniture in a naturalistic way comes when Her babysits her nephew.
  • Set includes a hob and sink, grey L-shaped sofa upstage centre with a standard lamp next to it and a coffee table. There are plants and coffee table books and various domestic items including baby muslins. It then reverts back to an empty space as the audience realises that this is not their baby, but Mary’s. The stage space is suddenly back to being an empty space with no furniture.
  • 'It doesn’t matter if you haven’t experienced it first-hand. You’ll leave moved by a piece of drama' - Simon Stone
4 of 8

Chapter 3 'Moratorium'

  • Her and John have just got married; Her says she’s going to take up gardening.
  • Her boyfriend then-husband is tepidly on board with the baby project.
  • The husband is played with an innocent affection and casual incomprehension.
  • Her: Short lace dress with short wide sleeves. In the garden, she wears a white, wide-necked t-shirt, khaki skinny jeans and bare feet.
  • John: Grey suit and open-necked white shirt for Chapter Three.
  • At the beginning of Chapter Three, strings of coloured bulbs provide the party atmosphere and location in a dimly lit stage to suggest night time. 
  • Strings of party lights, one table upstage left with champagne bottles and glasses. The sense of the party is heightened by the movement of the actors and the releasing of party poppers. As the scene changes to 2 AM, the carpet is now AstroTurf.
  • Gregory’s amplification of the actors’ voices conveys both clinical distance and intimacy, almost like we are spying on the characters.
  • She is a modern successful woman. Considering having a family, an area she can’t easily access. Totally consumes her.
5 of 8

Chapter 6 'Descent'

  • Her leaves to a music festival, descending into a crazed binge of alcohol, parties and sex with strangers.
  • Piper paints a painful portrait of an increasingly tortured, depressed, and untethered Her. Psychologically and chemically fragmented
  • Glimpses of people in her life who morph into festival-goers. A past, a perhaps better-suited lover pops up at all the wrong times.
  • Her’s hair has moved from a casual ponytail to worn loose and wet. This is an outer expression of how Her changes from comfortable with her own physical identity to a chaotic, messy and unkempt version of herself at the end of the play. This also contrasts sharply with the other characters whose appearance does not deteriorate in any way.
  • Des also wears a pink plastic poncho over denim shorts and a vest top in the festival scene.
  • Strobe lights in the festival scene create the mental state for Her, and it is highly disorientating for the audience too.
  • Dissonant sound. The music changes to heavy bass and cymbals in Chapter Six. The sound is more artificial than natural. This is reflecting the change in Her’s attitude to fertility as she has undergone IVF. The music is increasing discordant which is uncomfortable for the audience.
  • Echo is used in some scenes – a heightened sense of emptiness, lack of warmth and comfort is created.
6 of 8


  • Performance takes place on a traverse stage – glass walls separate the performers from the audience. This gives a sense of entrapment, lack of freedom and coldness.
  • The glass walls create a viewing chamber – sense of voyeurism, we are intruding on intimate and emotional scenes between various different characters.
  • White carpeted floor of the flat
  • The set reflects the barren nature of Her; it is often entirely or almost empty.
  •  Set dressing includes in several scenes, removal boxes. This never seems like a permanent or happy home.
7 of 8

Difference's to Lorca's original

  • Yerma’s anxiety about bearing a child in the original is catalysed by societal pressures of strict Christian morals. By staging his adaptation in a more secular modern-day London, Her internalises her obsession with having a child.
  • In the final scene, Her kills herself rather than her husband as occurred in the original.
8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Drama & Theatre Studies resources:

See all Drama & Theatre Studies resources »See all Live Evaluation resources »