A Room of One's Own comes to the Byre
A Review of the Rebecca Vaughn’s One-Woman Show
On Tuesday 13th September, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own came to St Andrews’ own Byre Theatre. Dyad Productions, the award-winning creators of I, Elizabeth, Christmas Gothic, Female Gothic, and Austen’s Women, transformed Woolf’s 1929 extended essay into an hour long, one-woman show performed by Rebecca Vaughn. In an extended monologue, Vaughn guides the audience through a witty and insightful exploration of the impact of financial security on the intellectual and creative freedom of women throughout history.
A Room of One’s Own was written by Woolf after she delivered a series of lectures on women and fiction at Newnham College and Girton College at Cambridge University in October 1928, the same year women secured the right to vote in the Equal Franchise Act. It is now considered a key work of feminist literary criticism as the text explores the educational, social and financial hindrances faced by female writers through the centuries. Woolf’s masterpiece highlights the importance of the power to contemplate, arguing that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’.
Vaughn’s sarcastic and charismatic delivery ensured the show’s success, keeping the audience fully engaged for the entire running time, which is no small feat in a one-woman show with very limited set-production, just a single chair and table covered in clothbound books. In fact, Dyad Production’s A Room of One’s Own was created specifically in response to the changing nature of theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic.The stripped-back nature of the show was definitely to its benefit, encouraging thoughtful and considered audience engagement with its powerful subject matter.
With several references to how life would be different in 2028, the production triumphs as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by those before us, granting us the creative freedom we possess today. We are given a sad reminder of all the writers and artists who never were. Gifted women throughout history who could not flourish in creative pursuits due to financial insecurity, instead destined to be wives and mothers. Judith, the imagined sister of Shakespeare, is used to illustrate how a woman just as gifted as Shakespeare, could never have succeeded as he did, instead experiencing a life of tragedy. Also, through mention of strong female characters in literature such as Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, the Duchess of Malfi, Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary, we are prompted to remember that women were fundamentally only viewed as such in the fiction of men.
Altogether, A Room of One’s Own was a powerful and poignant show with an engaging and dynamic performance by Rebecca Vaughn.
The Byre Theatre is home to a great array of student, amateur and professional productions of theatre, dance, musicals and music and thanks to their Pay What You Can scheme it is easily affordable for students. For information on upcoming shows visit their website at https://byretheatre.com.
Photo: Creative Commons