West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Across the back of the stage stretches a cyclorama, drenched in the hues of a changing sky (Paul Keogan's lighting). In front is suspended an enormous disc, tilted at an angle above the action, symbolising the moon, the sun, perhaps the communion host. Paul Wills' powerful design evokes the huge spaces of rural southern Spain, where Federico Garc�a Lorca situated the action of his haunting 1934 "tragic poem". Then the actors speak ? in Irish accents. Where are we meant to be? It matters. Yerma's tragedy grows out of a specific situation: she is trapped in her marriage and in a repressive, religious, macho society. Transpose her, by all means, but keep the essential tragic elements. Here, they are dissipated. Similarly diffused (and thereby defused) in Ursula Rani Sarma's new version, is Lorca's finely calibrated build-up of tension. In Sarma's added silent prologue, for instance, Yerma executes a "naively sexual" dance until she is "almost out of control" (a highly strung Kate Stanley-Brennan ), a pitch it takes Lorca the entire play to bring her to. We have reached the end before R�is�n McBrinn's beautiful but patchy production begins.