Lorca's towering passions and fierce domestic cataclysms can be (let's face it, usually are) origamied into a studio space – witness Katie Mitchell's searing Bernarda Alba at the Gate last year. But it doesn't happen here. The twin torments of Yerma's childlessness and her husband's indifference, which lead her to extremes of ritual and finally violence, hang no less heavy in Pam Gems's version for being couched in language more demotic than poetic. Tony Yates's direction, however, has too few tonal gears to choose from: he distinguishes the choric set-pieces from the dramatic scenes, but doesn't vary the register within the latter.
Most of my reservations, though, concern the acting. Surprisingly given the numerous lengthy resumés in the programme, only a couple of the company can either draw on the resources to embody Lorca's sorrow of experience or surrender themselves to the currents of his writing. The climactic, bacchante rite to invoke children into barren wombs (frenzy co-ordinated by former Adam Darius cadre John Paul Zaccarini as movement director) flaps about, insufficiently guyed to the drama. I'm reluctant to feel so dissatisfied, but in all conscience I can't avoid it.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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