The greatest side of Virginia Woolf’s celebrated 1929 essay will not be its oft-quoted declaration that “a girl should have cash and a room of her personal if she is to jot down fiction”. Regardless of being as true now because it was then the delight to be present in A Room Of One’s Personal is much less in its ends, or declarations, and extra in Woolf’s perambulating journey in the direction of them.
“I’m going to develop in your presence as absolutely and freely as I can the prepare of thought which led me to [this opinion],” she wrote. Solely her ideas are nothing like a prepare. They appear spun earlier than us as we learn, materialising just like the dewy lacework of a spiderweb at daybreak, and relayed with such immediacy that you’re taken into her whirring thoughts on that October day in London when “the river mirrored no matter it selected of sky and bridge and burning tree”.
That is the essay’s major pleasure. Its secondary pleasure – and one magnified by this two-woman manufacturing with Anita Hegh (Woolf) and Ella Prince (varied) directed by Carissa Licciardello and based mostly on an adaptation by Licciardello and Tom Wright – is how wickedly humorous it’s. If Hegh’s strains are this humorous on opening evening, you marvel, by mid-season will probably be a wine-snorting state of affairs. Don’t fear, masks are mandatory.
We all know they’re, as a result of Belvoir’s inventive director Eamon Flack tells us in a uncommon pre-show speech. He’s marking Sydney’s first mainstage play since lockdown, carried out to a most viewers of 120. “I by no means thought I’d be so pleased to see the theatre a 3rd full,” Flack says.
The set and the costumes (David Fleischer) are minimal to the purpose of puritan. Woolf wears a billowing shirt and culottes in shades of charcoal and true black, her hair scraped again. A spindly black chair and a black e-book are the one props; the e-book doubles as the various texts Woolf critiques.
After which, there’s the perspex field. Largely it’s darkish as Woolf monologues, solely to flare briefly right into a mini mise en scene, starring Prince, and cued by sure strains. Woolf stares into the field too, as if it’s a reminiscence made manifest or a premonition that haunts her. Ambient sound (Paul Charlier) wafts in when the field lights up and wafts off when it dims. Thus, within the straightforward manner that sound has with us, we really feel one thing. Solely we don’t know what or why.
Variously, we see Prince putting a match on a rolled cigarette. Prince along with her again turned in a Victorian-era gown, maybe enjoying poet Girl Winchilsea who “suffered terribly from melancholy”. Prince inclined in a mattress of roses. The tableaus are morose or macabre, bar one – the one we will higher perceive. Prince in trendy instances: denims, a laptop computer, on her again studying a draft. Alone. Plagues apart, that is how Woolf and ladies like her would have flourished in 2020, the scene wordlessly states.
Earlier, Flack tells us rehearsals started in March. “Anita has been holding this play in her thoughts and her coronary heart and her physique for six months,” he says. It reveals. Whereas she speaks in what you think about is Woolf’s voice – searingly clever, acerbic and sometimes offended – she doesn’t “play” Woolf. Not precisely. Relatively she performs the voice in Woolf’s thoughts that was channelled into the service of this influential feminist essay. Refined sure, however a nuance of efficiency Woolf would have appreciated.
As she would, little question, Licciardello and Wright’s adaptation of her essay. At 75 swiftly-passing minutes, that is the model of Room Of One’s Personal that ardent Woolf followers ought to current to the Woolf neophytes of the TL;DR technology. It’s the radio edit with all ramblings boiled off to the sticky focus of the essay’s biggest hits. In reality, I’m undecided what lingo applies to Licciardello and Wright’s achievement with the purple pen right here. An adaptation however maybe additionally an abridged model you may get pleasure from equally offstage.
To shut, let’s return to the enjoyable and the fury, as Woolf all the time does. And let’s put it plainly. The bullseye of each was males. “For Alan had views,” she writes of a fictional female and male couple, “and Phoebe was quenched within the flood of his views.” Of Alan’s views, Woolf says this: “However why was I bored? Partly due to the dominance of the letter ‘I’ and the aridity, which, like the large beech tree, it casts inside its shade. Nothing will develop there.” Acid splashes proper up the black partitions when these strains are uttered tonight. It’s great.
Rereading the essay in 2020 – or higher but, seeing this play – you could discover the origins of the Bechdel take a look at, of gender flipping and of the necessity for girls to critique girls’s artwork. However there’s one thing else too, one thing much more topical. Within the wake of the suffragette motion – “a couple of girls in black bonnets”, she writes – Woolf triaged males’s hostility as worry at shedding their privilege, pure and easy.
You see, Virginia Woolf loathed pompous, entitled males – who doesn’t? – and was an absolute ace at belittling them. Nevertheless it was nothing private. She understood males’s worst qualities had been each inherent and inherited from the lengthy line of pompous, entitled males that had come earlier than them.