Pleasance Courtyard – Beside
In 1928 Virginia Woolf delivered two lectures to the women’s colleges of the University of Cambridge. These became the most famous narrative essay ever written; A Room of One’s Own, published by Woolf’s own publishing house, Hogarth Press in 1929. Since publication, Woolf’s work has inspired countless spinoffs, from bookshops in its name to The Smiths’ 1985 song. Nearly one hundred years later the text has been adapted for the stage in a production that retains much of Woolf’s work and makes it accessible for performances as a one woman play.
Director Dominique Gerrard finds some nifty scenes in Woolf’s text. These bring us away from the lecture-like trappings of previous performances of this work, instead giving us lunches with authors and meetings with poets. And of course, the room of her own. The more explicit lecture parts of the text are pre-recorded voice-overs played between scenes and neatly place boundaries in the narrative, breaking up the presentation and offering a variety of delivery. A canny move from the director that gives the adaptation a sense of movement.
A sense of place is created well in the playing and through some of the set design, although a little more attention could have been taken to some of those artistic choices. The room and the dining room are created well, but perhaps the audience can suspend disbelief for a moment longer and the music stand and Ryman’s elastic bound notebook can be jettisoned or replaced with something a bit more period. Same goes with electric cigars, they never look good.
Woolf’s voice shines through in this adaptation and is buoyed by a fine performance by Heather Alexander as Virginia, who manages to sell this text to us. There is clearly a love and particular attention to the text that Alexander shows us, and we believe that she keenly performs the frustration and restrained anger in Woolf’s writing.
It all adds up to deliver a good performance of a classic text that makes for an enjoyable hour.
Based on original work by: Virginia Woolf
Adapted by: by Heather Alexander
Directed by: Dominique Gerrard
A Room of One’s Own plays at EdFringe 2022 until 27 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.