Ruined has been compared to Mother Courage but as I avoid Brecht the nearest point of reference I have is The Overwhelming which was a remarkable play about Rwanda at the National. Ruined concerns a group of women trying to maintain a bar / brothel in the midst of the Congo civil war. It is not as good as The Overwhelming but does provide a remarkably atmospheric experience thanks to excellent set, sound and lighting. I will probably remember it most for an unexpectedly happy ending and a superb central peerformance from Jenny Jules as Mama, apparently heartless but ultimately sensitive and vulnerable. - David Baxter
02 Jun 10
This is a hugely important play, helping us to understand the ongoing conflict in Congo and those caught in the middle of it, particularly women. It has clearly moved beyond political power (was it ever?) and taken on a life of its own with many self-interested factions fighting over money (and access to it) as much as anything else and prepared to commit appalling crimes including rape and mutilation to achieve their ends. You may think ’what has theatre got to do with this?’ – well, I happen to think it has a role to explain and illuminate what’s going on in our world and this play, by American writer Lynn Nottage, is therefore very welcome…..but seing it is often a disturbing and very harrowing experience. The first act sets the scene, introduces the characters and puts their situation into context. Mama runs a bar for miners, soldiers and those passing through offering rather more than beer. Her girls are refugees, disowned by their families after having been raped and mutilated for no fault of their own. It is in the second act – a masterpiece of writing, direction and acting – where the full truth emerges as events turn violent. Salima’s story (based on a very real person’s experiences) breaks your heart and the situation seems completely hopeless. However, the play ends with a humanity which lifts you and provides a modicum of hope for you to take away from the theatre. Indhu Rubasingham’s direction is impeccable. Robert Jones has created an extraordinarily believable bush hut which revolves to provide the bar, porch and bedroom. The ensemble is excellent and at its core there are two truly magnificent performances from Jenny Jules and Lucian Msamati. I’ve never seen a standing ovation in my many visits to the Almeida, and this completely impulsive one was richly deserved. Not an easy evening, but an absolute must-see experience.
- Gareth James
08 May 10
The best piece of theatre I've seen this year. An astonishing central performance by the ever-wonderful Jenny Jules, supported by a superb ensemble. It's true the writing doesn't explain the different sides or what they are fighting for but this misses the point - it's about the emotional consequences of war, not rhetoric. (White Guard gets very bogged down with endless tedious discussion of who is on which side). Don't miss Ruined, it won 7 Best Play awards for a reason! - dgr1
05 May 10
Once again a Pulitzer winner is being praised for the issues it covers rather than its merit as a pice of theatre, but a fantastic set and brilliant performances can't cover the fact that the writing is weak and the direction predictable. - Coralbee
30 Apr 10
Very intense, informative drama about the abuse and disregard of human life in the Congo.Superb acting - Jill Taunton
28 Apr 10
This play was superb. I saw it on the 2nd night and was utterly gripped from beginning to end. The performances were top notch and the way the writer managed to interweave horror and humanity was incredibly moving. Many people in the audience were in tears. Not just a fantastic play, also a very important one. - Sarah
23 Apr 10
If you can see this play for yourself then do so.
The WOS reviewer has done this play an injustice by giving it only a 3star-OK rating. No way is it just 'OK'.
I went to the first performance and there was a full standing ovation. Jenny Jules, Lucian Msamati and the whole cast give fantastic performances! Enough to move me to tears. A powerful story with the right balance of humour and heartbreak. Definitely a must see. - B Martin
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