Vita & Virginia: Review
Sapphic fire overtakes the Corpus Playroom
Vita and Virginia makes use of the very real (and dazzling) correspondence and diary entries of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. The ADC production brings the love affair of the two literary figures vividly to life, and delivers all the sapphic goodness true to the heart of the duo.
Given the intense nature of the two-woman production, the two leads had to dominate the stage, both doing so very successfully with a huge number of lines. Emmeline Downie’s Virginia evokes the perfect mix of both insecure and inspired, while Corinne Clark’s seductive Vita has an underlying vulnerability despite her aristocratic charm.
The perfect timing of Downie and Clark allows years of Vita and Virginia’s correspondence to seamlessly become a conversation. The distance between letters disappears as the full intimacy of emotion can be directly expressed and a gripping chemistry between the two leads develops. Clark as Vita impressively veers between toying aloofness and sudden pining for Virginia, and the moments in which the two leads actually touch feel highly significant.
The props and set are rightfully minimal so as to let the leads shine, however small details are very well done. Vita and Virginia each have their own portions of the stage which only makes it more intense when each inhabits the other’s space. Vita is fittingly represented with a chaise lounge while Virginia is often seen at her desk. The costuming was also clever in having Vita exchange a delicate dress for trousers, a small nod at Vita’s gender fluidity.
There are quite a lot of references to details about Vita and Virginia which could be overwhelming, however the people I went with didn’t really know much about Virginia Woolf and didn’t find it an issue. Downie’s charmingly delivered line that ‘these sapphists love women’, as well as anecdotes about sanitary towels and dinner parties are legitimately funny. Other parts of the story still entertain also – Virginia letting her friend cut her hair while drunk and in the middle of a crisis feels pretty relatable to me.
As someone with a love of Vita and Virginia’s story, I expected to enjoy this play. However, every ounce of my enjoyment was earned by the amazing acting and production, and I can’t recommend it enough.