Review: Ruined (Co-production – Nightwood Theatre and Obsidian Theatre)

By Megan Mooney

Sabryn_Rock_and_Yanna_McIntosh_-_Ruined_20111I kind of don’t know how to start with this review.  Really, what I want to say is, the Nightwood Theatre and Obsidian Theatre co-production of Ruined is fantastic, such a great production of such a great play.  And I kind of just want to leave it at that.  But I’m fairly certain people will want more details, so I will do my best.

The subject matter is tough, the play takes place in a mining town in the Democratic Republic of Congo and deals with, among other things, sexual violence.  it’s often not easy to watch, there were times I wished I had my handkerchief close at hand instead of crammed into my purse under my seat, but it’s well worth it.

The piece doesn’t feel like it’s just there to horrify.  The piece feels human.  There is laughter in the horror, there is music accompanying the gunshots, there is love amongst the betrayal.

A bit of background on me that may or may not have effected how I viewed the piece.  I lived in Zambia as a kid, so there are things, sights, sounds, mannerisms, that are very familiar to me, even after more than 20 years.  By a random coincidence, my show-partner for this piece was my friend Aiden, who is from South Africa. 

In our conversations afterwards we spoke a lot about details.  Details that really impressed us.  The design was fantastic.  When I walked into the theatre I looked at the stage and said to myself "oh, look, we’re in Africa."  Aiden had a similar experience.  She told me her favourite element were the chairs with no backs, something that probably a heck of a lot of the audience wouldn’t care about one way or another.  But we appreciated that attention to detail.

When I asked Aiden at the end of the piece what she thought she told me that she thought it was really well done and thought it was great, but also said she didn’t think she was done with it yet.  She expected that it would be with her for a bit, that she’d continue digesting it and returning to it.  I had a very similar response.

Everything about the production is great.  It starts with Lynn Nottage’s fantastic script, which gives the piece an excellent foundation, but all the rest of the building materials have been superb as well.   I’ve already mentioned the design with careful attention to realistic detail, and then there is the direction of Philip Akin, who never ceases to impress me, and strong emotional performances from a surprisingly large cast.

The bottom line is that this is a terrific piece of theatre that I HIGHLY recommend.  If you’re a follower of Toronto theatre you’ll regret not going to this one, everyone will be talking about it.  If you’re only a very casual theatre goer, treat yourself and go see this.



– Ruined is playing until February 12, 2011 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley)

– Showtimes are Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday 12:30 pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.

– Prices range from $15-$35

– Tickets are available by calling (416) 368.3110 or 

More information available at or


Photo of Sabryn Rock and Yanna McIntosh by Chris Gallow

One thought on “Review: Ruined (Co-production – Nightwood Theatre and Obsidian Theatre)”

  1. strongly agree…. it’s the first play i have seen where sexual violence, as a tactic of war, and its traumatic consequences gets any meaningful treatment. … in a way, the great physical discomfort and visceral unease of what we see from the women in “ruined” is a proxy for the way war, we are told again and again, scars the bodies and minds of everyone and anyone who’s involved.
    … but the power of this play is, of course, not what it stands for but what it actually is: at its core, an exploration of sex in the literal midst of war. sex and violence. while never becoming explicit, the material is unflinching in its depiction of the two together. … the result is so deeply confusing, almost unrecognizable extremes of behavior when these two primal emotions are brought so close together — there was this great line, where one of the female characters describes how the man she’s just been with, after the act, breaks down in tears on the floor. that line though is just the tip of iceberg of what’s on display in “ruined” in terms of striking and immediate contrasts of dominance and vulnerability, pride and total shame.
    i’d really strongly recommend it too.

Comments are closed.