Interview with Critics' Circle Award-winner Billie Piper about Yerma at the Young Vic
One of 2016's most exciting plays was a new production of Yerma, adapted from Lorca's original tragedy by Simon Stone in a contemporary text and production. Critics and audiences alike praised the adaptation and production, but much of the praise was leveled at the central role which was brought to life by Billie Piper.
Speaking to Piper ahead of the Critics' Circle Awards this week where she won the award for Best Actress, the 'Doctor Who' and 'Penny Dreadful' star spoke of her excitement at being recognised.
“I love it, quite simply I feel delighted” she beamed, speaking to press before the ceremony. “I'm totally chuffed because I really, really enjoyed it, so being rewarded for something that you absolutely loved – how rare is that in life? You feel that you actually loved your job and you got a prize for it – it's really nice.”
Critics and audiences alike were moved by her portrayal of a woman whose inability to have a child tears her life apart, but Piper admitted that she consciously chose to not read reviews of the production.
“I rely on my friends to feedback anything good, bad, ugly and sure enough they do on all accounts” she laughed. “I don't actively look at it because it makes me feel uncomfortable, for good or for bad. But I'm delighted that this seems to have gone well.”
Having performed on stage in productions such as The Effect and Great Britain at the National Theatre and Treats in the West End, she is no stranger to the demands of performing eight times a week, but spoke about the new challenges facing mothers who work within the acting industry.
“I think working in any job is hard when you have children” she explained. “It's constant push and pull, enormous sacrifices are made and financial worries – it's all pretty tricky. I would say that while they're young working in the theatre works quite well – it's the minute they hit school really because you're knackered taking them to school because you've been doing a show all night and you're sort of leaving before the school run. It's tricky. When they're babies it's actually very good because you've become a night owl anyway. I think everything has its taxing moments, especially as a working mum.”
The themes which Yerma explores are particularly challenging for parents and those with children, and it was certainly a challenging watch for audiences especially up close and personal at the Young Vic. “I think it's the most emotional part I've ever done” Piper stated, “but I loved it so much and I loved the company so much and I loved the way we got to it, how it was made and directed. The balance was so good. You're usually really down on work when it hasn't been a joyous experience, but moment to moment I absolutely loved it. Even though the content was really upsetting, getting to that point was just a gift really.”
Throughout her various TV roles Piper has amassed a diverse fan base, particularly due to her role in BBC's Doctor Who in which she starred as Rose between 2005 and 2013. Having expressed interest in playing a female Doctor in the future she commented that she would no long be interested in the role due to the work load.
“It is a hard job. I wouldn't like that responsibility, it's just too enormous, it's too much work” she replied. “I think that would be a welcome turn, wouldn't it?” she comments on rumours that the next Doctor will indeed be a woman. “They've had a few different age groups and I think that would be the wise way to go.”
For now Piper is happy to reflect on her time in Yerma and look forward to playing the role once again in the Young Vic's 2017 season. “I really wanted it to stay at the Young Vic” she commented. “It feels like the best home for it, I like the feeling of the Young Vic, I like the energy there, I like the vibe there I like the people who run it. It just feels very deeply cool and warm and I can't wait to go back there. It's a different energy all together in the West End so I'm delighted it's staying in its first home.”
Billie Piper stars in Yerma at the Young Vic from 26 July 2017.