Federico García Lorca’s tragic poem receives new life at the Cervantes Theatre, in a sensitively directed production by Jorge de Juan. We meet Yerma as she erupts from inside a hammock, where she’s been curled up asleep. From the first, her blossoming intensity is compellingly performed (in the English production) by Leila Damilola. A woman who desperately desires motherhood, we watch as she unfurls into madness under the pressures of social convention, and is ultimately driven to commit a horrific crime.
There are some very poetic and visceral moments in the production, culminating in the force and beauty of the ritual Yerma endures in the hope of having a child. The women of the production come out in force, dancing and chanting and filling the stage with life. It is a fantastic moment, even if there were some other women in the front row at my viewing who seemed to find the whole thing amusing. I’m not sure what they were seeing that I wasn’t; for me, it was everything about a kind of primitive idea of femaleness, wrapped up in one scene.
Certainly, some stereotypes are played upon, but you can’t detract from the sheer energy of these performers, who deliver the high point of the play with charm.
The build-up is effective and the play has been beautifully paced for maximum effectiveness of the finale. However, the final murder is a tiny bit underwhelming after everything; the highly charged female energy of the ritual that takes place is by far the emotional peak of the production. This leaves us with a bit of an abrupt end, the pain of which isn’t quite as effective as I’d hoped, though Damilola’s commitment to the scene is very moving.
The stage design by Angel Haro is simple and compelling, if a little confusing as the play progresses – we’re both inside and outside and it’s a little hard to tell which is which. However, the textures of the entire production are beautiful and sensuous, making for a lovely sense of Cuban colour despite very simple props being used. The sensuality and vibrancy of the entire world created in this production work well against the frustration and lack of passion at the heart of the play.
To be commended also are the performances of Coco Mbassi and Stephanie Da Silva, who play the Woman and Maria respectively. Mbassi radiates so much life and vitality despite her stillness, a true presence on stage. Stephanie Da Silva too is beautifully natural in her delivery, adding an air of contemporariness to the role of Maria, the young woman who successfully has many children, much to Yerma’s pain.
There’s a lot to enjoy here – some excellent performances, sensitive direction if slightly confusing staging. The isolation and duty that pervades everything is effectively explored, but it would have helped to have a clearer sense of one place over another, as Yerma’s ultimate act is unclear in its setting. An over-reliance on the hammock at the centre of the stage may be the source of this. Ultimately, the Cervantes remains a beautiful theatre for this production and the show is intense and enjoyable.
Review by Christina Care
The presentation of Lorca’s magnificent Rural Trilogy at the Cervantes Theatre ends with Yerma, “a tragic poem” of a woman with a desperate desire for motherhood, who under the pressures of social convention, is driven to commit a horrific crime.
Directed by Jorge de Juan, founder and artistic director of The Cervantes Theatre, this new production of Yerma is set in Cuba.
Cervantes Theatre presents:
by Federico García Lorca
(adapted by Jorge de Juan and in the English version with translation by Carmen
Zapata and Michael Dewel)
29th October – 1st December 2018
First week in Spanish and following weeks Mon-Wed in Spanish (with matinees Wed at 2:30pm) and Thur-Sat in English at 7:30pm
Cast English Production:
Yerma: Leila Damilola
Victor: Jazz Brown
Juan: Tom Whitelock
Maria: Stephanie da Silva
Rosita: LaTanya Peterkin
Magdalena: Christina Ellinas
Woman: Coco Mbassi
Dolores: Gledys Ibarra
Cast Spanish Production:
Yerma: Nansi Nsue
Victor: Federico Trujillo
Juan: Alán Rodriguez
Maria: Ana Mosquera
Rosita: Jordana Mba
Magdalena: Laura Arnaiz
Mujer: Gledys Ibarra
Dolores: Mayca Estévez
Arch 26. Old Union Arches. 229 Union Street. London. SE1 0LR