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Ruined: Lynn Nottage’s Play at the Almeida Theatre

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Published 12 May 2010

I was practically kidnapped by my friend when she bumped into me on the street yesterday. She insisted that I join her to watch a new play in Almeida Theatre; since the plot seemed interesting, I agreed to go, and after the remarkable performance by lead actress Jenny Jules and lead actor Lucian Msamati I would encourage everyone to do the same.

Lynn Nottage’s play ‘Ruined’ was commissioned by the Goodman Theatre (Chicago, Illinois) and won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Its European premiere directed by Indhu Rubasingham is hosted by the Almeida Theatre and runs through till the 5th June.

The scene is Mama Nadi’s bar and whorehouse in a small mining town in the Democratic Republic of Congo torn by the civil war. Although the story focuses on wartime violence, especially the cival war abuses that hit women, ruining the rest of their lives, the play is not depressing to the least extent but beautiful and thought provoking. The first scenes are even peaceful with heart-rending live music on stage, but as the voices and effects of the war come closer and closer, and the soldiers’ visits from the opposing armies became more and more violent, the bar transforms and we find ourselves in the middle of the war and see how it shapes the lives of those caught in it and how it brings up either moral courage or brutality from certain individuals.

I have read countless books on African civil wars and the effect of them on generations of people, but only reading about them somewhat distances you from the events and it is hard to empathise because they do not feel real. Contrary to this, seeing it on stage played by brilliant actors who genuinely live through their characters makes you aware that this is not only a story, but the cruel reality for millions of people in many parts of Africa even today.

Plays such as Ruined can and do help to raise awareness of what is really happening on a daily basis in a civil war stricken region. As we go about our relatively peaceful and comfortable lives in London, it is sometimes hard to imagine or feel the full suffering from the two dimensional words in the newspaper or videos on BBC News. Ruined brings the emotions from the conflict alive at the Almeida Theatre with some very talented actresses and actors, and highlights the political and financial plight of war-torn societies.

Cast: Jenny Jules (as Mama Nadi), Lucian Msmati (as Christian), Pippa Bennett-Warner (as Sophie), Michelle Asante (as Salima), David Ajala (as Fortune), Kehinde Fadipe (as Josephine), Damola Adelaja (as Simon), Silas Carson (as Mr Harrari), Joel Kangudi (as Soldier, Laurent), Steve Toussaint (as Commander Osembenga), and Okezie Morro (as Jerome Kisembe).

Ticket prices: £8-£32
Showing until: 5 June 2010
Show times: 7:30pm evening performances, with 2:30pm midweek matinees on the 19 May & 2 June, with Saturday matinees at 3pm
Play venue: Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London, N1 1TA
Information & booking website: www.almeida.co.uk

Editor’s Tip: Lynn Nottage’s Ruined was the recipient of the Pulitzer prize, as well as the recipient of seven Best Play Awards including the New York Critics’ Circle Award, two Drama Desk Awards and four OBIE Awards. A copy of the full Ruined play script can be purchased from Waterstones here.

Article written by Adrienn Gecse.


  • Bridgette Burton

    Mentioned your review on my blog http://bit.ly/axiG1s!
    If you get a chance, check it out! I saw Ruined last night and I truly enjoyed every moment.

  • Adrienn

    Hi Bridgette, I am glad you liked the play. Many thanks for recommending the article in your blog. Best, A.