by Lynn Nottage.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street N1 1TA To 5 June 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm & 19 May, 2 June 2.30pm.
Audio-described 22 May 1.30pm (+Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 15 May 3pm, 25 May.
Post-show Discussion 24 May.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7359 4404.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 April.
The jungle of war where men swagger and women suffer.
A woman caught up in war can’t win. Mother Courage found that in Brecht’s play, and Mama Nadi finds it in American playwright Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. However much her bar and brothel is off-limits as battle-lines shift outside in the Congo’s civil conflict, and though she demands some forbidding-looking soldiery take the ammo from their guns before being served, when a crisis comes the rules of her oasis turn out small-beer.
Mama’s a self-made woman, building her business from selling personal possessions, her place seen to be knocked-together from panels of rusty corrugated-iron before Robert Jones’ set revolves to show the lively interior. A tough bargainer, Mama buys young women; the opening banter soon sours over when it’s clear she and her supplier Christian are in the people-trafficking business.
So there’s an unhappy interior also; the upstairs room where the new arrivals exchange fears and hopes. One had been bound for university before being sexually “ruined”. Nottage moves between public and private – the most confessional upstairs scene between the two new women comes straight after a song-and-dance high-point downstairs, interrupted by gunfire.
Apart from Mother Courage, Bernard Shaw and Mrs Warren’s Profession comes thematically to mind; Mama Nadi makes money from women forced into sex, but says they’re safer and better looked-after than they’d be on the outside – a point that applies in Nottage’s jungle war of rape and mutilation, or Shaw’s jungle of urban capitalism. And one White character reminds how valuable mineral resources interest the wider world as well as inflaming local conflicts.
Yet new arrivals Salima, pursued by her husband, and Sophie with her interrupted education, still have the personal anxieties evident in Michelle Asante and Pippa Bennett-Warner’s sensitive performances. These contrast the acclimatised assertion of Kehinde Fadipe’s Josephine, a practised hand occasionally complaining at the boss’s unfairness, showing the impact of life with Mama.
Jenny Jules combines toughness and human feelings in a fine complex portrayal, with Lucian Msamati also mixing unthinking business with personal pleasure as Christian in Robert Jones’ tropically-drenched setting for a large-scale production which Indhu Rubasingham directs with confidence and clarity.
Mama Nadi: Jenny Jules.
Christian: Lucian Msamati.
Sophie: Pippa Bennett-Warner.
Salima: Michelle Asante.
Josephine: Kehinde Fadipe.
Jerome Kisembe: Okezio Morro.
Mr Harari: Silas Carson.
Rebel Soldier 1/Fortune: David Ajala.
Rebel Soldier 2/Laurent: Joel Kangudi.
Commander Osembenga: Steve Toussaint.
Simon: Damola Adelaja.
Guitar: Joseph Roberts.
Percussion: Akintayo Akinbode.
Director: Indhu Rubasingham.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Composer: Dominic Kanza.
Music Director: Akintayo Akinbode.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Abigail Graham.
Assistant designer: Alistair Turner.