Edward Albee’s Tony award-winning play has received a much talked about revival just months after his death in September 2016. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf famously missed out on the Pulitzer Prize for 1963 after the board objected to its sexual references and profanities; this lead to no prize being awarded that year.
This production is directed by James Macdonald and boasts a cast of Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots, with an impressive five Oliviers between them. Such a pedigree of talent ensures that the production is in safe hands and is a fitting tribute to the late Albee, showing his mastery of his craft.
The play centres around a married couple, George and Martha, caught up in a war of attrition. The conflict has been raging for over 20 years and their relationship is steeped in bitterness, regret but also symbiosis. The play takes place in the early hours of the morning after a party on a University campus where George works and Martha is the daughter of the President of the college.
Into the mix of this hard-drinking couple comes an unsuspecting younger couple, Nick and Honey, at the start of their lives and careers. They have agreed to join George and Martha for a drink and soon get caught in the crossfire. Perhaps George and Martha can see themselves in the optimistic youths: the aspirations they never fulfilled, the potential never quite realised. This pushes the argument further and the tragedies of their lives are soon put on display.
The play is intense to watch, taking the audience along on a journey filled with fun and laughter but also anger, violence, and hatred. The dynamics of the play are such that the audience seldom has the opportunity to sit back and relax but are constantly having their emotions tossed around, drawing them into the living room where the battle plays on.
Staunton and Hill are perfection in their roles. Well balanced and complimentary to each other’s performances, they provide a foil for the other to work off which they do so brilliantly. The relationship between the two has ensured that this production feels fresh, their verbal sparring sparking with electricity.
It has just been announced that the production will be broadcast to cinemas in May, giving a wider audience the opportunity to see this landmark production. If you are unable to get a ticket for the London run, go and see this modern classic in your local cinema and enjoy the performances of two of our finest actors.