Between the Acts

Virginia Woolf

Jacob’s Room is maybe my favorite Woolf novel, with its dark look at WWI and the futility of life; this novel shows England just before its entry into WWII, in a village hours outside of London, where a fragmented family is hosting a pageant on the grounds of their modest estate. It’s not as dark, but instead eerily quiet — the calm before the storm, you might say, as everyone wonders if the weather (“Variable winds; fair average temperature; rain at times”) will hold for the play to be outside instead of in the barn.

The play itself is ridiculous, attempting to tell the history of England in a few acts, some of them seemingly just tales of romance, skipping a few hundred years here and there. But the telling of the play is interesting, with the playwright/director anguishing throughout the performance, nature stepping in when things haven’t gone as planned, and a gramophone becoming a character. The final scene is brilliant. And of course, so much seems to happen in the intervals between.