Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance review: Yerma, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.
Caught by the spotlight, with a purple hue bouncing off her long dark dress, Amina Khayyam spins and spins. Material fans out, her arms and head whip round, and the pounding tabla drums build behind her.
There is no shortage of such visually striking moments in Yerma, but the ancient Indian classical dance style of Kathak is first and foremost a storytelling medium. Used here by Khayyam to convey Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 play of the same name, it allows for a dramatic, but not overly literal, adaptation.
The tale is a sad one – a woman in a loveless marriage, desperate for a baby to fill the hole. Set in 19th-century rural Spain, a place and time where great shame befell any woman unable to bear a child, Yerma’s heartbreak is compounded by public ridicule. All of this is subtly conveyed by Khayyam and two fellow-dancers, who take on the multiple roles of sister, husband and village gossips.
The relationship between music and movement is always important in Indian dance, and the live tabla, vocals and cello which support this work bring a richness to the staging. Khayyam has a strong command of Kathak, and as the show builds, the music echoes her increasingly fragile mental state.
Based in the UK, Amina Khayyam Dance Company has an interest in exploring and depicting issues which affect marginalised women. Yerma may be set more than 200 years ago, but the intimidation and desperation felt by its protagonist is just as prevalent today.
Don’t go to this show expecting to see the nuances of Lorca’s story played out. Do go expecting to see some excellent Kathak, hear great Indian music, and feel the power of emotional storytelling, told through the body, face and eyes, which take us deep into Yerma’s soul.
New Town Theatre (Venue 7) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 20 August 2015
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