Dalloway, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh - review


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The Independent Culture

Dyad Productions have found a niche telling stories of real-life and fictional women; they’re had previous Fringe hits with Marilyn Monroe, Lizzy Bennet, and Elizabeth I. In tackling Virginia Woolf’s much-loved Mrs Dalloway, and they take a straight-forward approach: Elton Townend Jones supplely compresses the stream-of-consciousness Modernist novel into a 90-minute one-woman. Rebecca Vaughan gives a heroic performance, playing not only Clarissa Dalloway, but also every other character.

It’s a bit much though, frankly – and not just the sheer length of the monologue. From the minute Vaughan bursts on stage she is rapturous, mannered, and wildly over-emphatic, in gesture and enunciation. Yes, this is a novel  giving voice to how, as people glide along the surface of the day, underneath they’re experiencing deep trauma and great loss, but also flashes of joy and wonder at the world - a love of “life; London; this moment in June.” But to start and remain in a state of wide-eyed intensity makes for wearying viewing; there’s little sense of thought or reflection, light and shade, more a ceaseless rattle through numerous lives.

Vaughan, in a 1920s-style bottle-green dress, performs with real commitment, and it is still often a pleasure to hear Woolf’s finely-wrought prose.  But the dipping into other characters – particularly the grunting voices she does for the suicidal soldier Septimus or the downtrodden governess Miss Kilman – come across as patronising rather than empathetic.

For me, the show fails to do justice to the innovative, flickering novel, or to find any real theatrical equivalent to it. It’s worth noting, however, that my restless frustration with Dalloway was out of step with much of the audience, who seemed to love this one-woman show.