Toronto’s Campbell House transforms for an immersive theatre experience in A Room of One’s Own
Back at Campbell House for A Room of One’s Own and a taste of 1928 I went, curious to see how my experience of Girton College would differ from my experience of the same historic home as a hand-wavy, Regency-esque haunted house from two weeks ago. Campbell House stood in charmingly for both, and A Room of One’s Own also proved charming.
Upon my arrival, I found fires were crackling, hors d’oeuvres being passed, a (cash) bar for collecting a glass of wine and retiring to the sitting room to enjoy while a cellist played. The cello was a little much for the small room, but the effect was pleasant overall in its sense of leisure.
The show is listed to begin at 7 pm, but be aware that, in fact, doors open at 7 and the performance begins at 8. The earlier hour is for the aforementioned drink and cello, as well as period newspapers to peruse — which is fine, but if you misunderstand and arrive at quarter to seven (as I did) you’ll end up standing in the cold.
Naomi Wright is the whole show here, delivering an adapted version of Virginia Woolf’s remarks at Girton College for a shade over an hour while we, the audience, became the women and guests of the college. Wright is very good here, and generated in me at least 45 minutes of keen interest in Virginia Woolf that I hadn’t previously had.
To be clear, I mean this as a serious compliment — I’m not especially a fan of Woolf. Wright’s delivery and choices (helped, doubtless, by Sarah Rogers in an atypically understated turn) turned what had previously been a rather dry talk into a fresh, animated and profoundly feminist hour. Wright was so good that I went home and downloaded Orlando, to see if I might like it better now than I did the last time I tried reading it ten years ago. You never know, I figure.Admittedly, things got a bit slow in the third quarter, but learning about Dorothy Osborn, the prolific letter-writer of the early 17th century, eased the pain. Woolf fans would likely find it less of a seventh-inning slump.
Considering what Naomi Wright makes of a wooden lectern, a glass of water, and an overstuffed notebook, there is much to admire here. It may not have strictly required the blast-from-the-past setting of Campbell House, but I do think the graciousness of the space adds something to the performance. Those interested in novels, feminism, or rhetoric will like this production a great deal, I expect, and their dates who may attend for the company rather than the content will find themselves pleasantly surprised at how vivid and amusing this production of A Room of One’s Own is.