The Coal Mine Theatre’s triumphant return to the Toronto theatre scene has finally come to fruition this week with the opening of their new space, and their production of YERMA. Written by Simon Stone (after Frederick Garcia Lorca) and marking the directing debut of Coal Mine Theatre’s co-founder Diana Bentley, along with the stage debut of star Sarah Gadon, YERMA is one of the most intense plays I think I’ve ever witnessed. Trust me, you want to make sure you get your tickets for this one!

YERMA tells the story of a woman in her early thirties, purely referred to as “Her,” and her struggles with ideas of motherhood, womanhood, and infertility. We watch as she slowly tumbles into deeper and darker spirals as the years go by until she is fully consumed by her struggles. I like that the main character doesn’t have a full name in the program; it reduces her to purely being female, stripping away all semblance of self and only acknowledging her reproductive potential, as she comes to do. YERMA tackles ever-present issues which are normally seen as unspeakable and taboo, yet it does an incredible job of bringing these to the light.

The new Coal Mine space is very reminiscent of the former location, with a theatre-in-the-round, black box design. What was unique with YERMA is that the main playing space is set into the floor. The stark white of the floor against its dark surroundings allowed it to be everywhere necessary with just a few lighting changes, but it also made it so that the actors really stood out. The stage is so stark and bare, that your focus is entirely on the characters themselves. It functioned beautifully for this piece and I’m looking forward to seeing what else that space will have to offer for future productions.

As I mentioned previously, YERMA marks the stage debut of Sarah Gadon, who astounded me even more in person than she had when I was watching “Alias Grace.” Her performance was vulnerable, emotional, and beautiful from start to finish. I truly hope that this is the first of many theatre performances we’ll be seeing from her. John, her partner, is played by Daren A. Herbert; he was a perfect antithesis to Gadon, and his character often defied my expectations. Herbert has an ease and smoothness to his acting that I really enjoy. Louise Lambert gives a stellar performance as Mary; you feel every ounce of her exhaustion with her newborn and every bit of frustration she feels with her life. Her raw emotions compliment Gadon’s perfectly, yet their characters take such different paths during the play. Martha Burns is fabulous as Helen; every time she was on stage you knew she was going to say something shocking or outrageous and do it with the most devil-may-care delivery. She’s a pleasure to watch. Johnathan Sousa plays a very interesting role with Victor as he shows Her a lost future, a thing that could have been, and I love the way Sousa brings to his character all of the awkwardness and uncertainty that comes from seeing an old flame again after many years. Michelle Mohammed is delightful as Des; another reminder for Her of her former self, Mohammed brings a youthful joy and verve to the role. As with Burns, you know that when she’s on stage something hilarious is going to happen.

YERMA has been extended until March 5th and the tickets are still going fast. This is a tour-de-force of incredible acting and writing that you simply must see. For more information and tickets, visit:

In all honesty, dear reader, this play hit me really hard. I’m talking REALLY HARD. At the beginning, Her was a lot like me: early 30’s, with a blog, long term partner, the whole shebang. But then she was more and more like my friends, some of whom have really struggling with fertility issues, and so likely would I should I try. It was hard watching my worst fears for those friends play out in front of me in real time, fears I didn’t really know I had, but were lying dormant and were awoken by this piece. I didn’t even cry in the theatre, it truly didn’t hit me until I was outside, dialling up my partner to tell him I was on my way home, and then it hit. All of it. All at once. And I think I silently cried the whole ride home. This is what I mean by these issues being ever-present: they have happened to so many women in the past and now it’s my generation’s turn to deal with them. But this is also what I mean by this play being powerful, it has the power to help us realize that this is not just one woman’s story, it is this way for MANY women and hopefully more art like YERMA will help erase some of the shame and stigmas around these issues.

Sarah Gadon and company in Yerma. Photo by Tim Leyes


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