This week I was lucky enough to see Yerma at the Young Vic in
the new play starring Billie Piper. I
say lucky, because the play’s sold out now, and I feel like I’ve witnessed a
“moment” in time when people will look back and wish they too could have been
there. I’ve become one of those smug
types who say things like, ‘Yeah, I saw Hendrix’s last gig before he died.’ Yeah, I’m that
smug, but Yerma is that good, and Piper… sublime.
This isn’t a review of the play, because unlike books, and to some extent film, I’m blissfully unaware of the mechanics that make up great theatre. And yeah, I wrote a novel, a ghost story, on the subject of acting and the theatre, but The Thespian grew out of my love for this art form, and not my desire to know how or why it works. I wish I could go back to reading books in this way, to just experience an honest emotional reaction without the intellectual assessment – to read a book the way I watched Yerma: with tears in my eyes and perpetually caught in mid-swallow.
They say in
that it’s roles that win Oscars, not actors, and to this I partly agree. But could any actress have pulled an
Oscar-winning performance out of Blue
Jasmine? I don’t think so. As soon as I’d finished watching Cate
Blanchett’s performance I said to my self I’ve just witnessed this year’s Best
Actress Award winner. I felt the same
way about Billie Piper’s performance, and knew I’d just witnessed an Olivier.
But unlike film, you could see immediately how much Piper had given of herself. When the players came out to take their rightly deserved applause, Piper looked devastated, ruined, unable to break from her character. She managed the odd smile, but it looked crazy on her face. She was still traumatized from her performance, and I loved her for it.
Yerma is the best theatre experience I have ever had, and if you can beg a ticket from somewhere, anywhere, you should do so, because if you don’t, one day you’ll bump into somebody like me, and you’ll have to deal with, ‘Yeah, I saw Yerma when Billie Piper was playing the lead, you know, the role that won her the Olivier…’