The Woman Destroyed

Written by Simone de Beauvoir
Adapted by Diana Quick
Directed by Deborah Wintle
Unity Theatre (13th -15th June 2006)

Reviewed by Helen Grey

"Outspoken, fearless and honest" is the deluded self-description given by Murielle as she sits alone in her Paris flat on New Year's Eve. The flat is sparse and contains a small white table, a white chair and a somewhat dirty looking white couch. Murielle is dressed in a blue satin nightdress and dressing gown and lounges on the settee. Loveless and childless, she spends her evening pontificating about her situation and attempting to prepare for the impending visit of her estranged husband and son the following day.

‘The Woman Destroyed’ is an hour-long play performed by a single actress. The monologue is delivered by a fairly unhinged middle-aged lady who has lost her family and has little contact with her mother and brother due to her controlling and misguided nature. It becomes increasingly clear that Murielle believes that the world and everyone in it is against her, complaining: ”I never get anything I want” and “What’s mankind ever done for me?” She is a woman trapped by her own insecurities and her inability to accept that it is her personality that is the cause of her situation. Throughout the hour Murielle reveals how she feels about her past, present and future in colourful detail.

This play - which is adapted from the novel by the French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir - is entertaining. Cathy Butterworth manages to present a convincing performance of a woman bordering on a breakdown while continually maintaining the audience’s astonishment at her actions. However, Murielle’s complaining and whining begins to grate and towards the end of the play I was beginning to wish she would see through her threats of suicide. The play had also been split into fifteen small scenes, which broke up the action too much and decreased the intensity. While I wouldn’t agree with the company’s description of 'a terrifyingly bold portrait of a woman undone, a memorably compelling hour of theatre', I would say it’s a play worth its ticket price.

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