Thursday, April 18, 2013


I went to see Ruined when it was on the Main Stage a few months ago. It was certainly a powerful play to watch and I saw several connections to Woolf, though they are more connected to A Room of One's Own, which we had not yet read at the time. The show takes place  at Mama Nadi's store/bar/brothel which this production placed on the back of a flatbed truck. Behind the truck was a makeshift tent structure where the three girls who worked for Mama lived. The tent itself was set so far back into stage left that you could only just see what was going on in there; I remember having to lean over to see what was going on back there. This could have just been a matter of where I was sitting, but it speaks to Woolf's discussion of women needing their own space to thrive as artists. Sophie who is "ruined" meaning that she was raped and injured so badly that she is now infertile, is a singer and is sheltered by Mama who can't give her a room of her own, but can keep her from being a prostitute. This tent space being small and only barely visible to the audience highlighted the marginalization of some women in the Congo and the hidden nature of their stories.

During the scenes where the women would dance for the soldiers, Sophie would stand off on her own separate part of the stage, and if a soldier ever attempted to violate that space, Mama stepped in to protect her. Here the value of individual space is emphasized  though it is not purely on the basis of artistic talent that Sophie is given her own space, but also in large part because of what she has been through. Sophie also lacks money which would be problematic for Woolf. Mama is the one woman in the play who has both the money and the rooms of her own and yet she is not an artist; her only goal is to survive. And yet, when Sophie has the opportunity to have an operation that would make her fertile again, Mama risks her security in order to help Sophie. The indication here is that Mama has hope for Sophie's future and that hope is dangerous. It's hard to say what Woolf would have thought about these themes. While (spoiler alert) all seems to end well for Mama, she goes through considerable hardship in trying to help other women. This could relate to Ray Strachey's The Cause and Woolf's differing opinions on feminine success, though I make this connection loosely as I doubt that Woolf would see helping out her fellow woman as dangerous.

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