Yerma, by Federico Garcia Lorca, is the final show of 2009 of a season of Lorca's plays by Moonlight, the graduate student company of the ANU Collge of Arts and Social Sciences. It's set in Spain in the earliy twentieth century, and deals with a woman's struggles with an intolerant society and a husband who lacks all affection. Tortured by loneliness and the natural desire to have a child in a country where a woman is valued by her ability to produce heirs, she is moved to extreme measures.
The intolerance of the isolated society is powerfully illustrated in a scene where the village women are doing their washing in a stream; the scene itself is a triumph of design and innovatioive symbolism. The women begin to sing of the shame and unfitness for society of women who are barren, while it's clear to us that it's the fault of the husband. However, in this world the man is never to blame for a woman's childlessness, and there is no way out for the woman.
Lorca's plays belong in the genre of modern classics, and thanks are due to Moonlight for making three of them available to us, as they are not often performed.
In the large cast, Catherine Hagerty as Yerma and Camilla Blunden as the 'Pagan Crone' both shone. Carol Whitman's direction made the text very accessible and had original touches.