The story of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 play Yerma is almost archetypal in its simplicity, like the story of a Medea or an Antigone.
Yerma is a young married woman in a small village who is unable to have a child. The play traces her desperate attempts to understand the cause of her barrenness, and to overcome it without betraying her marriage to a cold man who seems not to care whether he has children or not.
The pain Yerma experiences is universal, common to childless women everywhere. But Lorca deliberately sets the story in the kind of traditional community where failure to give birth effectively robs a woman of the whole purpose of life; and where people retain a series of deep magical and poetic beliefs about the forces that govern fertility and barrenness, life and death.
Which is why Biyi Bandele’s new version of the play, set in a remote North Nigerian village, emerges as such a strong, beautiful, and emotionally absorbing version of the story, linking traditional village life with the experience of a modern audience much more convincingly than any production set in western Europe now could.
Co-produced by The Theatre, Chipping Norton, and Fifth Amendment of Worcester, the production features a company of eleven black British and Nigerian actors; and the sheer energy of the show, the singing, the dancing, makes the production a joy.
But at the core of it, there are two performances - from the wonderful Sesan Ogunledun as Yerma, and from Yomi A Michaels as her husband Bala - that go straight to the heart of Lorca’s play, and handle the theme of Yerma’s quest and her pain with an overwhelming seriousness, intelligence, humanity and sense of mystery. Asked what they would take with them from working on the project, the actors involved in this Yerma said, among other things, "feeling alive, engagement, passion, universality". See this wonderful show, and they’ll make you feel those things too, even at ten in the morning.
Until 26 August