Intelligently adapted and beautifully performed, Dalloway is a one-woman show that is entrancing.
Rebecca Vaughan navigates her way through the material portraying character after character without the aid of props or costume changes creating a stream of consciousness in which they are all linked.
The white stage is bare aside from a white chaise longue. Vaughan sparkles in a green dress of the period ensuring that attention is centred only upon her performance and the vivid world created through her descriptions.
Never hurried, the pace is appropriate for the piece which ensures that the moments of drama and tension are starkly obvious and powerful, contrasting well with the chatter of parties and love affairs.
Dyad is known for its solo productions, and this is one that can be happily added to its existing stable.
Dalloway from Dyad Productions at Assembly Roxy is simply a "go and see" show for anyone who likes both adaptations of classic novels and stage-craft at its highest performance levels. Every Fringe I always look forward to catching up with Dyad Productions and whatever show they have brought to Edinburgh, and as with "Dalloway", they never disappoint, or fail to impress me. Dyad Productions are simply a benchmark of quality that never wavers year from year.
Dalloway is of course adapted from Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel "Mrs Dalloway" and here through skilful writing and direction for stage (Elton Townend Jones) and a mesmerising performance (Rebecca Vaughan), Clarissa Dalloway and her post-war world of polite London society are brought to life as we meet her family, friends and passing acquaintances. I deliberately do not use the WW1 here as at the time of writing there was no other war to reference it against. The war and its aftermath are never far beneath the surface of this story, and the "unseen illness" of post-traumatic stress in returning servicemen is delicately woven into the fabric of this story.
Just who is Mrs Dalloway though? That is a question even "Dalloway" does not really know but here, with a story arc viewed from her own viewpoint, we get some answers to that from her inner self and those around her who represent not only different viewpoints of her in the present, but also a slightly different person in her past. With a skill that has to be seen to fully understand, Rebecca Vaughan brings to life not only Dalloway herself but every other character, male and female, in this story, and it is all done with nothing more than performance skills and an absolute minimum of a few stage props. This is "performance magic" on stage as without any change of costume Rebecca slips effortlessly with nothing more than voice, body language and mannerisms into all of our characters, and does it all so convincingly that we all believe that they are there on stage with us.
The only support that Rebecca really has is some very subtle lighting changes and a very limited amount of audio back up for sound effects. What gives Rebecca the very solid world that we all imagine to be there on stage is the very skilful writing of Elton Townend Jones and his ability to create just the right amount of descriptive background and dialogue to create a wonderful world of illusion in our minds, a world that is then like magic brought to life on stage by Rebecca's impeccable performance and attention to character voices, mannerisms and detailing.
There is with Dalloway that feeling at the end of the show that you are leaving some long gone world and the reality of re-entering the 21stcentury outside is a strange experience for the first few moments.
In a wonderful and illuminating performance, Rebecca Vaughan becomes Clarissa Dalloway and also inhabits the whole of Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs Dalloway. She very effectively becomes husband Richard, chosen as safe all those years ago, and Peter, who returns and is still yearned for, plus the tragic soldier Septimus, suffering from PTSD before anyone understood that, and his wife, together with further characters. She is extremely impressive, creating a character in a phrase and in seconds, the three dimensional representation of a very modernist technique. We are in London, 1923, and the world is still trying to recover from The Great War. Clarissa is very responsive to the beauty of the day, but is also aware that much of her life is over. The whole work happens in one day, as she prepares for the party she is giving. The city itself seems to be pulsing through the lives we dip into here. Adaptor and Director Elton Townend Jones has filleted the novel in a way that makes it seem quite a love story, reflecting the various loves, male and female, of Clarissa's life. Rebecca Vaughan herself is clearly emotionally involved with the events, including the husband's sad failure to speak those key words, and the awful fate of Septimus. The audience responded very warmly, and I cannot before recall a performer attempting to restrain a standing ovation. But that ovation was deeply deserved.
Breathtaking solo performance by Rebecca Vaughan in Dyad Productions' beautifully designed & directed Dalloway at Assembly.
The war is over, and London swells with the bubbling heat of summer, the squeals of omnibuses and the chatter of the socially ambitious. Such is the world of Woolf's novel and the spirit evoked in Dalloway by Dyad Productions. This solo performance by Rebecca Vaughan crackles with warmth and colour, with Vaughan's Clarissa Dalloway skipping like a stone through the world of party preparations and repressed desire.
Loquacious and meditative in smaller doses, Elton Townend Jones' adaptation and direction allow the vivid descriptions of the text to ring through. Vaughan's performance of war veteran Septimus Warren Smith provides a chilling balance to the upper echelons of high society that make up the rest of the character roster. The intersecting afternoons of Smith and Dalloway provide an evocative portrait of the doubts, anxieties and pyres beneath the glitz and glamour of a former age.
With the assistance of atmospheric sound and lighting, Dalloway is a strong offering in the plethora of solo shows at the Fringe. Dyad present a sprawling metropolis of language, brought to life through a lively performance.
Probably one of Virginia Woolf's best-known and most loved novels, Mrs Dalloway shares a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a woman from post-First World War London's high society. Dalloway's life is brought to us through her reflections on her past and some of the characters that have shaped her outlook on the world.
The stage is bare, cream white, with just a chaise-longue, evoking rich society London. This is a character study with a difference. Rebecca Vaughan, writer and performer, as she did with Austen's Women, lifts a character already created in fiction by another writer, and transposes it onto the theatre stage. With rich source material, and her own proven ability to draw the essence of popular characters from literature into live performance, we have Mrs Dalloway before us.
Dalloway is our storyteller, our guide through London, past the omnibuses in Piccadilly, a woman "far out to sea", a woman who "dresses well, but spends little", a woman with a flair and time for self-observation and commentary on those in her milieu. Vaughan plays a host of characters, delineating them well, and filling the stage with not just Clarissa, but her immediate world, of Peter Walsh, Septimum Warren, Lucretia and many more.
This is yet another highly distinguished piece of solo theatre from Dyad Productions – a finely crafted and honed monologue (written and directed by Elton Townend Jones) that captures the essence, remoulds and then sets free anew the words of Virginia Woolf, honouring the original, yet playing with it in a way only theatre allows, lending the work a theatrical dynamism, ranging from the comedy of wry observation and irony, and the intensity of confronting mortality and one's darker self. On stage we see Clarissa before us, immerse ourselves in her London, her realm of experience. Without a prop in sight, and within moments, we are all in there.
Staged fairly statically, what moves, what flies and swirls is the narrative, always on course to deliver the tale, but also cruising into different episodes, arrivals and realisations. Vaughan is a master at her craft. What craft is that? It is multi-faceted and has been honed by Vaughan over several years: character interpretation and portrayal, direct and bare performance, eloquence and intelligence, the courage to stage simply without fuss, precision in gesture and emotional presentation, storytelling that lays relaxed, easy claim to humour, introspection shared publicly, dramatic tension, and shifting mood and playing different characters, older and younger, male and female.
Vaughan the actor, and Townend Jones the writer and tranposer, lift Woolf off the page and present Mrs Dalloway before us with bold, accessible honesty. One never doubts that Rebecca Vaughan is living the character with every cell of her body. She remained completely focused, rarely missing a beat for eighty minutes. Entirely Dalloway, there is no hint of Vaughan. This is overshadowing and then incarnation into a character which is rare in theatre. Townend Jones adds to the immediacy by giving us a Clarissa speaking in the present tense.
In places, Dalloway may feel text heavy, too long for some, but that is because theatre like this has a right to demand attention, to expect active listening. To enter the world of Dalloway one has to go through the door of attention willingly, because this character is so detailed, her story so laden – not only with narrative – but also reflection. There's texture in Dalloway and you'll miss much of it, if you sit back and wait.
There's storytelling at the heart of Dalloway, but also an underlying ability to both tell and be that story. The moments of humour in it generate plenty of laughter and there's scope for a bit more in the script to lighten and temper its intense elements.
For five minutes I closed my eyes, radio-play style – and there she was, clear as the bells of London: Clarissa Dalloway, even more alive and present. This is solo theatre rooted in acting and delivery whose light reaches into the furthest corners of the theatre space.
The Fringe in Edinburgh is very long, almost as long in days as a short tour. I saw Dalloway on its final day at the Fringe and this review is focused on that performance. As an artistic thing, this felt like burnished gold, something crafted and polished to near perfection and ready to tour to many places. This is an outstanding production that renders Woolf for the stage in a way that honours the original but also enhances it with Vaughan's now expected tour-de-force character acting, tightly and intelligently directed.
Last year at the Fringe, the same team from Dyad Productions – writer/director Elton Townend Jones and solo performer Rebecca Vaughan – delivered a storming adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando. They're back this year with a new version of another Woolf novel, Mrs Dalloway.
Structurally, the books are almost diametrically opposed. While Orlando is a sweeping journey through time, place and gender with a single burning consciousness at its heart, Mrs Dalloway takes place on a single day in London in 1923, a fragmented semi-narrative which floats from character to character and drifts between external observation and internal monologue.
This makes what Dyad has done all the more remarkable. Vaughan's performance is pitch-perfect, delicate, nuanced, shifting fluidly among the book's many characters, always returning to the centre, Clarissa Dalloway: society hostess, dutiful wife, endlessly questioning consciousness. Yet even Mrs Dalloway herself is curiously unfixed.
She flits between possible selves, regretting her lost loves, male and female, fearing ageing and death, constrained by her position in society and by her gender – unknown, at times, even to herself.
Townend Jones' adaptation contains all this, and the world which opens out from it: 1920s London, full of myriad life, intrigue, gossip, pain; the old guard of English society, straightjacketed by class and convention; the echoes of the recent war, typified in the tragic figure of Septimus Warren Smith, haunted by hallucinations and dead comrades.
Dyad has synthesised Woolf's novel into a glorious 90 minutes of theatre. An elegant black and white set and the simple device of church bells tolling the hours sketch the context without distracting from the performance. In the midst of it all weaves a story about love, longing, secrets, regrets, and – just occasionally – the wild joy of being alive to the moment.
“An ordinary day underpinned by hidden woes, troubles and desires"
Elton Townend Jones' stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf's classic novel Mrs Dalloway perfectly encapsulates life in the interwar period: the parties, the dreams and the surfacing anxieties in the aftermath of the Great War.
It's June 1923. The stage is set, a singular chaise longue, a room draped entirely in white. This minimalist blank canvas serves to ignite the audience's imagination as you follow a day in the life of the upper-class Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares a party in Westminster.
Rebecca Vaughan embodies Clarissa but also brings multiple characters to light in this one-woman monologue performance. This role is technically demanding yet Rebecca's phenomenal acting skills help her flit seamlessly between characters, something she should be commended for.
With the focus on Clarissa, this sole female, it echoes the company's ethos of letting women's voices take centre stage in this feminist response to the First World War.
Clarissa discusses Septimus Smith's tribulations too, his diagnosis of shell-shock indicative of the mental trauma from warfare. Rebecca transforms herself into Septimus, alluding to his melancholy and agitated state perhaps stemming from a repressed homosexual desire.
The traditional storylines of masculine desire are further broken up by Clarissa's fond memory of Sally, all adding to the prevailing current of repressed homosexual desires or tendencies.
This fascinating play really encourages you to ponder over how much is desire and how much is socially sanctioned expectations.
As someone who was unfamiliar with Woolf's story, this production turns this famous literature into accessible, live performance. This adaptation from page to stage keeps the audience transfixed and shall continue to do so as Woolf's imagined London lives on. If you go with an open mind, you can immerse yourself for 90 minutes into the roaring 20s too.
One woman shows are de rigueur at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, but Dyad Productions' Dalloway is unlike any other. Rebecca Vaughan plays Clarissa Dalloway and 15 other characters in a whirlwind performance that is an ode to Mrs Dalloway's 1923 London and the lives of its inhabitants.
Vaughan's acting is terrifically precise as she ponders the lines drawn through London's streets by the feet of its dwellers, and then proceeds to walk in their shoes. She's impressive as she changes her mimicry, voice and posture at the drop of a hat to become a flower shop attendant, Italian émigré or an overly familiar doctor. When she straightens her back, slows her gait, sticks her hands into the pockets of her beautifully detailed green silk dress she no longer flutters about like tender-hearted Mrs Dalloway but paces the stage like a slightly gruff, upper-class man in his fifties.
As soon as one character has had its time inhabiting Vaughan, the next is already waiting in line and as a result, the pace of the piece is relentless. Each well-delivered monologue only ends for the next interjection to occur, which can leave the audience in need of a breather. Because of the continuous high energy of the play and Elton Townend Jones' crafty writing, however, one performer manages to portray the fulness of city life singlehandedly and yet subtly intertwine its different strands to create a coherent piece.
In adapting Virginia Woolf's largely stream-of-consciousness novel, writer-director Elton Townend Jones has had to converge the private thoughts of several characters into a continuous monologue, leaving actress Rebecca Vaughan with the task of creating instant characterisations and differentiating between them. She must do this while holding an audience for 90 minutes through a narrative that is more static and internal than linear.
That the pair, leading forces in Dyad Productions, are not defeated by the challenge is an accomplishment in itself. That they succeed as well as they do is remarkable. Novel and monologue devote most of their attention to three characters: Clarissa Dalloway, a society matron whose life's work lies in throwing successful parties; Peter Walsh, an old admirer who realises and resents that he's still in love with her, and Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked Great War veteran whose real pain counterpoints the relatively minor problems of the others.
Vaughan is particularly successful at communicating Clarissa's essential goodness without disguising her triviality, and that there's more depth to her than is evident. A remarkably successful and evocative monologue.
Whether familiar or not with Woolf's 1928 Modernist novel Mrs Dalloway, this adaptation will not fail to delight.
The Great War is over and the socialite Clarissa prepares a party, shrilly reminding guests to "remember my party tonight!" Her life intertwines with fifteen other Londoners, including Septimus, who has recently been diagnosed with shell shock.
The original stream of consciousness text works incredibly well with one person on stage, and Vaughan gives a magnificent performance. She drifts impeccably between characters, each with a personalised voice, posture and aura.
Clarissa, who "knows nothing but her manner", is a fantastic concoction of the superficial busy-body neighbour and the insightfully perceptive – she is after all within every person, place and moment. Clarissa is young but feels aged and her only gift is of knowing people by the instant. This paradoxical sense of a short time simultaneously saturated with lengthiness is characteristic of Modernism and works very convincingly in this production.
A completely white stage with a single sofa provides a stark contrast to Clarissa's vivid and tireless thoughts, but also as a convenient blank slate for the audience to project their imagination, and to insert it into the spaces created by Vaughan's terrific acting.
Dyad Productions is renowned for innovative adaptations of literary texts (Austen's Women), and profiles of powerful women (I Elizabeth, Marilyn Monroe).
For their 2014 Festival Fringe production, as we commemorate the start of the Great War, it is timely to present a stage version of Virginia Woolf's modernist masterpiece, Mrs Dalloway.
Woolf parallels a single day, 13 June, 1923, in the lives of two people: the privileged, socially elite wife of an M.P., Clarissa Dalloway, and Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked veteran of the First World War. As the day begins Clarissa is buying flowers for a party she will give that night, while Septimus is in Regent's Park listening to the sparrows, who, he believes, sing to him in Greek.
They each encounter several people, whether in reality, thoughts or memories, a host of characters drifting in and out through the free-flowing monologue. Narrated from the perspective of Mrs Dalloway, it's been imaginatively dramatised as a one-woman play, starring Rebecca Vaughan.
The minimalist stage set reflects a drawing room of a grand London Townhouse: long drapes represent three tall windows, beside a white chaise longue.
Dressed in an elegant emerald green chiffon tea-dress, Clarissa, tall, slim, poised, smiling with a sense of joy, explains that she must go out to buy flowers for her party. The beauty and scent of fresh flowers, "The War is over," she sighs with relief - she can look forward to peaceful London life again.
For Septimus, back from the trenches in France, his personal war of suffering continues; even the comforting love of his wife Lucrezia, cannot ease his tortured mind. With a quick change of voice, her arm shaking against her thigh, Rebecca portrays Septimus, his anguish, anxiety, fear expressed with such pathos.
Clarissa leads us on a journey around Westminster but also in her mind's eye back in time: sad memories of happier days, lost loves - Peter Walsh, whom she declined to marry, then went off and met a "pretty nincompoop on a boat to India!"
A heartbreaking scene is an anecdote of youthful innocence, her schoolgirl crush for Sally Seton, sharing poetry, "Plato for breakfast and Shelley hourly." Given a flower and a kiss, the bud of a love affair does not blossom.
We hear about Clarissa's quiet marriage to Richard and introduced to her society friends, Lady Bruton and Hugh Whitbread. Here's Peter himself, back in town and kindly come to see her. He strides across the room, hands in pockets, a throaty laugh. After all these years, does he still love her?
From Richard and Peter, her daughter Elizabeth to Septimus's Doctor Bradshaw, the characters are a series of miniature cameo portraits.
Theatrically it works brilliantly following Woolf's literary style. Mrs Dalloway describes her own feelings and emotions but like a 'stream of consciousness' she gives the impression of being inside the mind of the other characters, their interlinking thoughts woven like a spider's web.
The sense of time ticking away through the course of the day is emphasised through this well-paced production: the chiming of Big Ben as Clarissa walks down Bond Street and visits the florist. Late afternoon, she must get ready to greet her guests.
The simplicity of design, subtle lighting, clock bells, bird song, piano music all create an effective soundscape, period setting and romantic mood.
The concise, crisp editing of the text is complemented by delicate, seamless direction. Elton Townend Jones has distilled Mrs Dalloway into a perfect gin martini – dry, smooth, sophisticated.
Don't be Afraid of Virginia Woolf! Mrs Dalloway has been brought colourfully to life in this richly re-imagined, exquisitely evocative stage adaptation, portrayed by Rebecca Vaughan with heart-breaking poignancy and passion.
Dalloway, a one-woman show produced by Dyad Productions. Actress Rebecca Vaughan's hour-long solo performance is perfection. Between Vaughan's specificity and the focus with which she defines each character, the audience forgets that she is alone on stage. Vaughan is simply sublime in one of the best shows at the Fringe.
"Dalloway" is a one-woman show based on Virginia Woolf's novel of the same name, from Dyad Productions. Performed by the accomplished and persuasive Rebecca Vaughan, with just a change of voice, a shift in stance, a bodily gesture, she brings an entire complement of the story's characters to life. To condense an entire novel in less than an hour-and-a-half and representing so many characters coherently is no mean feat but Vaughan makes it look easy. The spirit of the book was artfully rendered, the arc of the story was complete. Dressed in a post-World War I period outfit, Clarissa Dalloway frets over the party she's preparing and her trivial life as a socialite, reminiscing about her first true love. We meet him, too, an impetuous socialist and idealist, who has loved Clarissa his whole life. But she has married safely, and now longs for the kind of passion she once felt, while wondering about the pointlessness of her life. Other typically British characters are amusingly and realistically evoked, but when we get to Septimus, a war veteran afflicted with shell shock, the drama of Clarissa's existence contrasted with his tortured mind takes on a new poignancy. We witness and share in the hopes, fears and resignation that mark the distinctions between social classes but end with a sense of humanity that touches the heartstrings.
This production is basically the reason why I come to the Fringe to cover book adaptations every year. It was seriously stunning.
Adapting Virginia Woolf would always be a challenge: her wordiness and the hidden meanings within those words, not to mention her complex, highly emotional characters; all of that adds up to the necessity of highly intelligent performers if you are going to tackle it. But to do so alone, you need someone very special. Rebecca Vaughan was sensational, a true masterclass in acting.
From the very first moment, I couldn't take my eyes off her, I was completely and utterly riveted. I thought perhaps she would include the other characters from Clarissa's point of view rather than as characters in themselves. But I was wrong, she brought each character to life in an instantly recognisable way. Just from a look, a gesture, a slight swagger, you could tell instantly who she was portraying. It was a beautiful and very emotional piece of theatre, a worthy adaptation of a beautiful book!
A well-filled house was treated to another Sunday of outstanding theatre. Congratulations, to Down Arts Centre for bringing us such amazing theatre and to Dyad Productions for this sensational and inspirational one-woman performance by Rebecca Vaughan.
I haven't read Virginia Woolf, but having experienced this pocket bombshell of a production I feel both that I had immersed myself in the novel, and also that I now want to read it. Dame Edith Sitwell said of Virginia Woolf's writing that it was no more than glamorous knitting and that she believed that she had a pattern somewhere. Well, Dyad's writer and director, Elton Townend Jones, took this "stream of consciousness" work and gave us some spell-binding theatre. What a team, Because with the bravura performance by Rebecca, the combined effect was spell binding theatre.
Rebecca, elegant in a green 1920s afternoon dress, was magnificent as she took us into a day in the life of Mrs Dalloway, but, much more, because we were also submerged into the id of Clarissa Dalloway as she struggled with conflicting emotions of who she was, how she related to her husband and old loves, of both sexes, and how she managed to get through the joy and tedium of everyday life. Mrs Dalloway, at one stage, says she feels that she is everyone, well thanks to Rebecca's skill as an actor we were every character.
We saw the underlying sadness of life, emanating from the characters we meet. Rebecca cleverly takes us through Clarissa's party preparations and, with flashbacks, to her conflicting emotions and questions of self worth. With Rebecca we meet the core of Clarissa. Rebecca also becomes, Peter Walsh, Clarissa's old suitor, Sally Seton, to whom Clarissa had been deeply attracted, her husband Richard, the vain family friend Hugh Whitbread, the shell shocked ex-soldier Septimus Warren Smith, his Italian wife Lucrezia, as well as various others, like Clarissa's daughter's embittered teacher, Doris Killman, and dowdy cousin Ellie Henderson, as well opinionated doctors whose egos come before their attempts to treat Septimus' shell shock. We are totally convinced that another character has come on stage as Rebecca cleverly changes her posture, timbre of her voice, her way of moving and her facial expressions. I particularly loved the way that, with a turn of the head and lascivious wink, Rebecca, as Dr Holmes, made us fully aware that he was more interested in Lucrezia than in helping her husband.
The incredible skill of the adaptation and the power of this very talented actress are tested to the full as Rebecca takes us into the mind of the tortured Septimus and we are in his head as he escapes from the pressures of his torment by throwing himself out of a window to be impaled on railings below.
What a privilege to have been able to have been totally absorbed by this remarkable production. We can rejoice in the creativity and skills of people like Rebecca and Elton who keep the wonder of theatre alive. More please. We await, with eager anticipation, their next venture which we hope will be with us in December.
Congratulations to Down Arts Centre again for bringing such wonders to our door.
Great cocktail parties are increasingly rare. DALLOWAY, at the Eternity for the Sydney Writers Festival is the rarest affair of all. A gentle and gracious soiree where the fine conversation flows and the guests are eclectic and interesting to meet. As you head home stimulated by the ideas discussed and the emotions touched, your mind turns to the hostess. Is she what they say she is or what she appears to be? And… did she buy those flowers herself?
Based on Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, DALLOWAY distills the essence of the novel like a fine brandy. It is a hot June day in post war London, 1923, and Clarissa Dalloway, sunny and gay, is preparing a party at her home in Westminster. She likes to succeed. Her silly little life has had many social triumphs and this will be no exception. The Prime Minister is coming…a great honour.
In a park nearby Septimus Warren Smith is her opposite. He is brooding and troubled. His late onset of ‘shell shock' is scaring his Italian wife Lucrezia. He believes the sparrows are talking to him and his new doctor plans on putting him in mental institution.
Woolf is a writer who is often adapted. WOOLF WORKS, the extraordinary ballet, is playing at the Royal Opera House and this particular novel was given the big screen treatment as the context for award winning 2002 film, THE HOURS, the original title of the novel. This adaptation by UK's Dyad Productions is also lovingly faithful to the themes and style of the original.
Stream of Consciousness writing does lend itself well to being spoken but writer-director Elton Townend Jones takes on the difficult task of further translating the work into theatre. His is a deceptively simple technique…. speak the 3rd person sections as if they were 1st person speech and direct them questioningly at the audience.
Choose where the prose engages with the characters and have the character deliver, not just the direct speech as dialogue, but the context, foreshadowing, exposition, and sometimes the aftermath. In the skilled hands of the single performer, we sometimes feel the pain and joy of the person we have just met through the eyes of another. Like whispered gossip at small intimate gathering.
Time and place are easily established though the words of the novel. ‘My London, omnibus, roll of tweed, unspeakably' contextualise the performance. Well executed tech, Big Ben, a chiming clock and simple lighting changes of focus or colour, add variety and propel Clarissa's day. But it is Rebecca Vaughan who does the work for 90 minutes to bring Septimus to his sad end and Clarissa to her moment of deepest reflection?
Vaughan is simply wonderful. There are 20 or so characters in the novel and not all are there onstage but we really don't need to meet her daughter Elizabeth or her Aunt Helena. The women we do meet are clearly delineated by voice and accent and intent. The eternal question in theatre is: can women successfully play men? Vaughan can.
The physical craft is there. She spreads her stance and pontificates or lounges with one leg forward and changes the timbre of the voice for the upper-class ex-lover. She hunches ever so slightly and poor disturbed Septimus is alive for us.
She is brilliantly supported by a wonderful dress which allows her men to pull at a cuff, or hold a lapel or thrust hands in pockets without destroying the beauty of the gossamer insert of the front pleats. The sheer sleeves float when she uses her arms in fluidly mimetic ways to introduce a character to another, to elucidate an emotion or appeal to the audience to approve her thinking. And her mime is so well crafted. Sewing or taking tea or an illicit kiss.
But it is Vaughan's emotional range which makes the characters believable and recognizable so that the story can sweep along. Peter's comments about Clarissa are cruel but accurate and reflected from the beginning to be brought to the surface by Clarissa's hollow triumph.
The ‘profound darkness' of a generation who will repeat their errors is writ large in the arrogance of the doctors and the inability of Richard Dalloway to express his interior life. The ending of Septimus' story is heart wrenchingly powerful yet she slips easily into facileness in a breath. The perfect hostess for Woolf's creations.
Given the traffic chaos of a modern Sydney yesterday, I only just made it to the theatre. But I am so pleased I had the chance to experience this performance and I thank the Sydney Writer's Festival for allowing me an invitation to the party of the season so far.
DALLOWAY continues at the Eternity Theatre as part of the Sydney Writer's Festival but has sold out for the rest of its season.
I saw Dyad's production Austen's Women last year and was mightily impressed. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is one of my favourite novels and I was looking forward to seeing Dyad's take on it in their show at this year's Fringe. It is the same duo of writer/director Elton Townend Jones and actor Rebecca Vaughan so the signs were looking promising from the start.
The story is set in 1920s London and follows a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party that evening in her house where she will as usual act as the perfect society hostess. She reflects on her comfortable life with husband Richard, thinks of her daughter Elizabeth, of her past lover Peter who has visited unexpectedly and of a passionate stolen kiss long ago with her friend Sally. A separate story, but intertwined with Clarissa's, is that of Septimus Smith, a shell-shocked war veteran who is unable to forget the horrors he has experienced and adapt to life in the normal world. They never meet, but their paths cross at various points throughout the day and Septimus' fate finally and brutally intrudes on Clarissa's consciousness. The novel was considered the first of its kind in that it is written in a stream of consciousness style, giving an insight into Mrs Dalloway's character through her own inner thoughts as well as through the perceptions of others. It is a simple premise but a complex novel and a very challenging work to tackle as a one woman show.
Vaughan is a talented character actor and brings to life the various characters that populate Mrs Dalloway's life – the snobbish Hugh Whitbread and Lady Bruton, the bitter spinster Miss Kilman, the consultant Sir William Bradshaw and numerous other observers and participants.
The audience loved it and were moved to give the performance a standing ovation.
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