A Room of One's Own

Naomi Wright inflames and inspires as the daring Virginia Woolf in Bloomsbury Collective's unique production at the Campbell House Museum

Presented by Bloomsbury Collective
Written by Virginia Woolf
Stage adaptation by Patrick Garland
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Featuring Naomi Wright

Naomi Wright as Virginia Woolf in A Room of One's Own. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Patrick Garland’s 1990 adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s classic lecture A Room of One’s Own is beautifully recreated in an immersive theatre experience presented by Bloomsbury Collective at the Campbell House until November 24th. Guests are invited to arrive an hour before the lecture to look around—the main floor of the historic Toronto landmark has been transformed into Girton Women’s College, Cambridge, where Woolf delivered the lecture to a group of female students in 1928. Upstairs, guests are encouraged to peruse Woolf’s private quarters, including a desk covered with copies of her personal correspondence, while sipping tea or sherry. A live cello performance and roaring fire provide an ideal ambiance, suggestive of the English country estates from which Woolf hailed.

The intensity, lyricism and power of Woolf’s meditation on the topic of Women and Fiction is vividly brought to life in an outstanding performance by Naomi Wright, as the guest lecturer herself. The play takes place in a large upstairs drawing room in which Woolf, surrounded by the audience, alternates between a podium and a chair, highlighted by a subtle yet effective spotlight. Garland’s adaptation is very faithful to the book, beginning with Woolf’s famous account of being turned away from a Cambridge library for the apparent crime of being a woman. True to Woolf’s style, this incident propels her—and us—into what is perhaps the most panoramic and poignant discussion of the economic, biological, psychological, religious and philosophical conditions that have underpinned “the reprehensible poverty of our sex” for millennia. Woolf traces women’s lack of history, lack of money, lack of empire, and lack of a substantial artistic tradition in a searing and honest attempt to figure out what led to this fiasco. She provocatively ponders what appears to be an extremely curious phenomenon: that “if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some think even greater… but this is woman in fiction. In fact…[historically] she was locked up, beaten and flung about the room.”

Seeing A Room of One’s Own performed as it was originally intended brings to the fore the fact that the lecture is, in part, an urgent call to arms—a direct challenge to its young female audience to “earn 500 a year with your wits.” Wright’s passionate performance reaches its climax with the famous metaphorical tale of “Shakespeare’s sister” and her inevitable and tragic end. As with the play’s other denouements, the anguish of this powerful moment is effectively enhanced by faint music wafting in from elsewhere in the house.

Following the play, guests were invited downstairs to chat with Prof. Garry Leonard (U of T) who noted, tongue-in-cheek, that he felt awkward leading the discussion on the heels of such a “brilliant vivisection of male professors.” An insightful and amusing consideration of Woolf’s life and work followed, and as I left Campbell House, chief among my thoughts was the notion that those who still refuse to acknowledge the profound harm that results from placing arbitrary limitations on the creativity of women should be afraid of Virginia Woolf, and the masterful indictment of injustice she provided in A Room of One’s Own.

A Room of One's Own runs until November 24th at the Campbell House Museum. Visit aroomofonesown.ca fore more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Wed, 2013-11-13 - Sun, 2013-11-24
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