Ruined at the Almeida was a tour de force. It’s a harrowing tale of the lives of some people in the congo with the background of civil war, rape and survival.

It deals with the subject matter with sensitivty, colour, flashes of joy and exceptional speeches, and that is just the writing (by Lynn Nottage).

The delivery excels in every way, the set is incredible, revolving to reveal the two interiors and the exterior of the bar. It is dressed and distressed extremely well, with the look of a place that’s falling apart but is also well lived in and in a peculiar way ‘homely’.  Wonderful attention to detail.  All of this was highlighted by the terrific lighting designed by Oliver Fenwick , which worked flawlessly throughout.

The music used (both live and recorded) fitted the mood well, and the drumming and guitar added a very ‘real’ feeling to the whole proceedings. This along with the beautiful voice of Sophie ( Pippa Bennett-Warner) made for an extremely solid musical backing.

All this segways into the performances given by the cast.  Beginning to end there was not a weak moment.  The actors didn’t perform their parts, they lived them.  From their fantastic vocal accent performances to their physicality to their constant interaction with one another they brought to life this incredible production. It is unfair to draw out individuals in such a strong cast, but Pippa offered us a wonderfully pure performance as Sophie, singing the bar songs with a rich voice and portraying the character beautifully. Next word goes to Lucian Msamati as the travelling salesman-poet. Lucian brought us a lot of humour throughout the piece, but his character also gave us some of the most heartfelt moments of the play and was truly heartwarming. Final mention has to go to Jenny Jules as Mama Nadi whose journey we followed through the story. Harrowing, strong and vital sums her up for me – a tremendous talent with a terribly difficult, yet wonderfully rounded & vital role to play.

I could go on and frankly was tempted – I think I could write complimentary things about every cast member and every member of the creative team, I will however give one mention to the Dialect Coach (Majella Hurley) as the accent work was totally wonderful.  I couldn’t honestly say if it was ‘authentic’ or not – but it certainly worked for me, credible, audible and lyrical to listen to.  Credit to the cast and coach here.

The direction of the play ( Indhu Rubasingham) was commendable, with the scene changes seemlessly merging into one another with a grace that underlied the whole piece and the space was filled and busy, the bar scenes which can often look fake and manufactured worked perfectly and this all showed through in the well deserved standing ovation the play received.

Harrowing but well well worth it.  If it doesn’t (or hasn’t already) win awards then it really should.

Photo Hugo Glendinning

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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