ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF
is the tale of an imaginary meeting between Virginia
Woolf and Alma Rattenbury in a quizzically locked London reading room. Set
on the very day that Mrs. Rattenbury committed suicide, the play is an
intelligent blending of historical record, philosophical dissertation and
These two fascinating women of the
Twentieth Century talk of love, abuse, sex, madness, creativity and death.
An obvious nod to their individual demises, they even discuss stones, as
Alma passes a pocketful of those thrown at her by an angry crowd following
her acquittal to an intrigued Mrs. Woolf as a gesture of "good luck."
Virginia Woolf recounts her many losses, the incestuous sexual abuse she
suffered as a child, and the subsequent "purple rages" that marked so much
of her adult life. It is the infamous Alma Rattenbury, however, who gets the
meaty bits of ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF.
Painting herself in the role of the
wanton woman, Alma recounts her three marriages, the scandal that caused
herself and Francis Rattenbury to flee Victoria, Canada following their
public adultery and subsequent nuptials, her later seduction of their
eighteen-year-old chauffeur, George Stoner, and his ultimate murder of her
ailing third husband. Virginia Woolf, living a quieter life, most likely
surprised very few when her final suicide attempt was successful. Yet, Alma,
a woman who appears at once self-assured and self-possessed, though not
necessarily, despite all of her talk of it, destined for such a bloody,
self-inflicted demise, emerges an enigma.
Were it not for the program notes,
most of the audience would not even know of Alma’s gruesome end. In that
way, ALMA AND MRS. WOOLF plays more like an historical footnote that
never was – the chance encounter of two very different women who had such
very similar ends – but that very well could have been. Such very different
women, they were, but really, not so disparate in their existences.
- Kessa De Santis -