Billie talks to BBC News about ‘Yerma’!
2016 / Jul / 27

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