“I didn’t want to be weaving baskets and lamenting about the oxen.”
That’s the actress Billie Piper talking about “Yerma” on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast. Piper, best known in the U.S. for TV roles in “Doctor Who” and “Penny Dreadful,” delves into her lead role in the contemporary adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 play, a performance that she’s currently reprising at New York’s Park Avenue Armory after it won her an Olivier Award in the U.K.
She loved the original play, she says, but she wasn’t so interested in doing the role with all the trappings of the period (like those baskets and oxen). That’s why she leapt at the chance to work with writer-director Simon Stone on the new, updated version that’s playing at the Armory through April 21.
“Yerma,” about a woman driven to extremes by her inability to conceive a child, takes the actress to some very raw, vulnerable places, but she seems to take it all in stride. “I find it quite a cathartic experience, myself,” she says. “I feel like theater satisfies me in that way, sort of gets rid of loads of my own stuff. You’re done by the end, but I don’t know that it’s a massive sort of dark toll that it takes on me.”
On Stagecraft, Piper also touches on her early days as a U.K. pop star and her transition into acting — including her time as a cult-favorite companion in the 2005 revival of long-running TV franchise “Doctor Who.” “I never watched it as a kid, and I’m not a sci-fi fan,” Piper laughs. “It had very little interest to me. But it’s been a bit of a life-changer, that. It’s huge.”
She also talks about what’s up for her next — and the musical that might be in her future.
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