WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
by Edward Albee.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To15 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 8, 12 Oct 2pm.
Audio-described 13 Oct.
BSL Signed 6 Oct.
Runs 3hr 15min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 October.
Devastating in its refusal to be overtly theatrical.
A late-night, early morning domestic, a post-party alcoholic slug-out, with witnesses. The end of a life-lie that gets you by; a reheating of the debate Ibsen the playwright had between truth as sovereign in An Enemy of the People and disaster in The Wild Duck.
The underlying success of David Thacker’s superb revival of Edward Albee’s 1962 masterpiece is that all the elements simmer in an intimate, in-the-round staging which forces nothing. Not George’s fight for individuality in the chaos of man-made history against the threat or promise of a new man-made humanity (something closer now through clones and genomes).
Nor the suggestion in naming mediocre academic George and his six-years older wife Martha, daughter of the university President, after America’s first President and First Lady.
Invited in the early-hours for another drink (several as it turns out), young biology professor Nick (Kieran Hill, immaculately inappropriate straw hair clashing against his dark suit) and his giggling, tiddly wife Honey find themselves witnesses and participants in George and Martha’s marital battle. Hill is tactful, never over-asserting either the argumentative or sexual.
Tammy Joelle’s Honey, dead to the context, veers from drunken delight to sickness or sulks. Give her twenty years and there could be another soured Martha.
But it’s the older pair who are central. George Irving’s low-stepping walk, his quizzically harrowed look – between Jack Benny and Woody Allen – declare his defeat; there’s a bored habituation even when he attacks. The regular gesture of shaking his arm dry after scooping from the ice-bucket shows how these people are at home, despite visitors.
As does Margot Leicester lying ungainly on the couch, massaging her feet before the doorbell rings. “I don’t bray,” she says to George. Most Marthas do, as a joke. Leicester doesn’t, and the effect’s subtler, part of a disappointed life where moments explore the possibility of affection, while others, like the opening dialogue, show argument as part of life’s routine rather than grand moments. And Albee’s thread (in one sense, this is a play about a baby) is pristine-clear. Virginia Woolf?’s probably never been quieter, nor seemed more tragic.
Nick: Kieran Hill.
George: George Irving.
Honey: Tammy Joelle.
Martha: Margot Leicester.
Director: David Thacker.
Designer: Patrick Connellan.
Lighting: Mick Hughes.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Movement: Leslie Hutchison.
Assistant director: Mark Gill.