Billie Piper says her latest stage role, about a woman desperate to have a child, feels very relevant because it’s an issue being faced by many women she knows.
“It chimed quite vividly with me because so many of my friends are finding it quite hard to go through that,” Piper says. “It seems to be a very common topic at the moment.”
Piper plays the title role of Yerma in a modern retelling of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 tragedy about a woman whose desperation to become a mother is met with indifference by her husband. Simon Stone’s version, which begins previews at the Young Vic this week, relocates the action from rural Spain to contemporary London. Speaking during a break in rehearsals, Piper admits she hadn’t heard of the play until she was approached about the role at the end of last year.
“I read the original, and I thought that it was one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry,” she says. “It’s that story of a modern woman who is suddenly suffocated and strangled by her ticking clock. I witness that all around me, and I read about it frequently. I thought that it seemed like a very relevant piece of work.”
Although Yerma is billed as a tragedy, Piper says that she was drawn to the humour in Stone’s script.
“I was glad when you told me in an email it was going to be a crack,” she tells Stone. “Identification with characters happens through comedy,” he responds.
“That’s how you make friends – one you’ve just met a new colleague and you go to the pub, the moment where you ensure a bond is when you start telling jokes. People at the end of their rope are usually quite entertaining,” Piper adds. “It’s hell for them, but it’s always great for the person who’s witnessing it. That’s just life.”
Piper says rehearsals for Yerma are like nothing she’s experienced. “I feel like we’re making something that is very grounded in its concept, but feels very filmic in its energy,” she says.
“It will be an unusual piece of theatre just by definition of how it will be staged,” she adds, without elaborating for fear of spoilers.
But she does reveal the play is straight-through with no interval.
“It’s going to be sharp – ‘in-out, let’s have a beer,'” she laughs. “People care about that when they go to the theatre. It’s going to be impactful, and it’s going to be short.”
She pauses and looks across at Stone. “And it’s going to be funny.”
Yerma is at the Young Vic, London, 28 July – 24 September
Billie featured on Steve Lamacq’s Show on Radio 6 and featured on the roundtable throughout the show, commenting on songs as well as her new play ‘Yerma’! Click on the photo below to listen! (only available in the UK)
With her infectiously peppy Because We Want To, Billie Piperlaunched phase one of her career back in 1998, becoming the youngest ever artist to debut at No 1 in the UK. But after two hit albums, she segued into an acting career that has eclipsed even her music success.
Adored by Doctor Who fans for playing Rose Tyler, companion to David Tennant’s Doctor, she’s also known for taking on the role of sex worker Belle de Jour in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and as Brona Croft in Penny Dreadful. She has enjoyed regular stints on the London stage – rejoining Call Girl writer Lucy Prebble for The Effect, and starring in Richard Bean’s phone-hacking drama Great Britain. Next up is the lead role in Yerma, a Lorca tragedy updated by the iconoclastic Simon Stone.
With Yerma opening at the Young Vic on 28 July, Piper is joining us to answer your questions about it and anything else in her career, from 1pm BST on Wednesday 13 July – post them in the comments below.
Billie attended the press night for ‘Unreachable’ in London last night, supporting Matt Smith & Lucy Prebble. 19 HQ photos below:
The story around Lily [Billie Piper] has been one of my favorites this year.
LOGAN: Yeah, me too.
That monologue about her daughter in episode 8 was just stunning. Can you take me through why it was so important that you saved that really human story for the end of the season?
LOGAN: Happily. I chose to write about women in Victorian society — that’s the stealth thing this show is actually about. It’s a very feminist show, and the idea that the audience gets to see, in our three years, Lily as a degraded figure who’s abused by men, as Brona, literally being reborn into a blank slate and then achieving incredible power but always having a great human connection. That was a case where I was also inspired by the actor, because Billie Piper so delights me, and I found that in the second season I was able to write her an eight-minute monologue that she absolutely delivered, completely, in a way that I found thrilling. I just wanted to do it again, because she’s an actor who understands theatricality and understands larger than life language in a very unique way, and that’s part of what this show is about.
I’ve added 400+ screencaptures from last nights episode. How amazing was Billie? I wonder what’s in store for Lily now!
I’ve added new HQ stills from last nights episode of Penny Dreadful – ‘Ebb Tide’! Warning they contain spoilers!