Jenny Jules in Ruined
(© Tristram Kenton)
Jenny Jules in Ruined
(© Tristram Kenton)
Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Ruined opened last night at the Almeida Theatre in London. The production, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, is scheduled to continue performances through June 5.

The play is set in the brutally war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, in a rainforest bar and brothel where shrewd matriarch Mama Nadi both protects and profits from the women whose bodies have become battlegrounds between government soldiers and rebel forces alike.

The company features Jenny Jules (Mama), Lucian Msamati (Christian), Damola Adelaja (Simon), David Ajala (Fortune), Michelle Asante (Salima), Silas Carson (Mr Harari), Kehinde Fadipe (Josephine), Joel Kangudi (Soldier/Laurent), Okezie Morro (Jerome Kisembe), Wunmi Mosaku (Sophie), and Steve Toussaint (Commander Osembenga).

The creative team includes Robert Jones (production design), Oliver Fenwick (lighting design), and Christopher Shutt (sound design).

The British critics have largely agreed with their American counterparts about Nottage's multi-award-winning script, although there are some reservations. Rubasingham's production, however, has gotten nearly unanimous praise.

Among the reviews are:

Evening Standard
Sexual healing in the war zone in Ruined
"Lynn Nottage's Ruined arrives in London festooned with awards -- including a Pulitzer -- and it's easy to see why. Engaging where it might in less skilful hands have been crassly confrontational, it's a disturbing portrait of the conflict that continues to convulse the Democratic Republic of Congo -- leavened by some sweet humour and an affirmation of the potency of love."

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"This is an exceptionally powerful piece of writing, and Indhu Rubasingham's direction proves pulsatingly intelligent, while the rough and unfamiliar setting is brilliantly realised by designer Robert Jones. At times, Ruined may be sentimental and preachy, yet it satisfies deeply."

The Guardian
Ruined
"Lynn Nottage's play arrives in London laden with American honours. And rightly so, since it offers a graphic portrait of women as perennial victims of war."

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"But, although the play vividly depicts a war zone in which women's bodies are treated as battlegrounds, it has a glimmer of hope. Without minimising the pain, it becomes a tribute to women's endurance. Admittedly the climax lacks the ruthless logic of the Brechtian prototype. But, unusually for an American playwright, Nottage deals with global rather than purely domestic issues and raises our awareness of the use of rape as a military tactic."

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"It's not merely a good play. It jolts our conscience about a forgotten conflict. One emerges both shaken and stirred."

The Stage
Ruined, Almeida, London
"Nottage does not shy away from the desolation of the women, whose stories are based on first-hand accounts collected in East Africa. But on Robert Jones' jungly, corrugated tin revolve set, there is room too for wit, music and a celebration of survival under Indhu Rubasingham's gripping direction.

"If the ending is a trifle sentimental, we are all too ready by then for a moment of hope and gentleness."

Whatsonstage.com
Ruined
"Indhu Rubasingham's production, lavishly designed by Robert Jones and beautifully lit by Oliver Fenwick, has an oppressive, dank and teeming jungle atmosphere but cannot fully disguise the somewhat flat and platitudinous quality of the writing, which is much better at reportage than revelatory description, humour or even the rhetoric of war-mongering."

For further information, visit: www.almeida.co.uk.