Monday, 12 October 2015

"Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?"
Lace Market Theatre.

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is a 1962 play by Edward Albee and examines the breakdown of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they invite a younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests, and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship.

As the four drink into the very early hours of the morning, Martha and George engage in scathing verbal abuse in front of Nick and Honey. The younger couple are at first embarrassed but seem fascinated as more drinks are consumed; especially Nick, when he finds that Martha is coming on to him while Honey is throwing up in the bathroom and is then out for the count on the bathroom floor.

Many secrets, on both marriages emerge, which serve as bullets for the other's guns, and by the end of the often sick taunts, George drops a bombshell on Martha about their son, which destroys her.

There are many questions left unanswered in Albee's play, which seems to be the idea because there are no right or wrong answers here and is all up to the imagination of the viewer. The play is left open ended which could have left way for a sequel, and possibly a prequel.

In places it's quite disturbing and the sense of intimidation, tension and possible threat looms not too far from the opening of the play. You start to realise that Nick and Honey could just be part of George and Martha's crazy marital games, and the reason the young couple were invited back in the early hours was not just for a social drink to end the night on!

The play is in three acts, and, as it's a long(ish) play; two hours and ten minutes with the two breaks, you need a break or two to remove your nails from the seats and to bring you down off of the ceiling it's that tension ridden.

All four actors played a blinder in their roles. Sally Brown (Martha) was as neurotic as they come and wonderfully spiteful as she spat orders at the two men. Not one to cross and not one to be told what to do, and what not to do or say either.

Malcolm Todd (George), again a good sparring partner for Martha, and you could just see the mercury rising to tipping point as his character showed glimpses of a psychotic nutter, mentally unhinged, but very intelligent. Probably the most dangerous kind!

Lucy Wakefield (Honey) came across to start with a little naive and ditsy, but once she had a glass or five of the brandy, she let her colours and tongue fly. That's Honey by the way and not Lucy. A wonderful performance turn around as soon as the shyness melted away like the ice in her glass.

Matthew Thomason (Nick), good looking and shallow, the ideal type for a cougar like Martha to get her claws into. Again a restrained start for the character which exploded in several angry outbursts when rubbed up the wrong way by both Martha and George. The outbursts at first came as a bit of a shock which really woke you up to his character, making you feel that there was more than one plane to Nick, and we were right!Confident and assured performance.

The accents were placed somewhere Brooklyn/New York area and very convincing. The set seemed to be anywhere from the 60's to 70's, even though Albee based the story around a late 50's style era. It didn't matter as this play could be set anywhere within the three decades and would work.

This is a classic which breaks down all the stereo-typical images of American so called family life. It blurs the lines between reality and illusion because you really don't know if Martha and George's "family unit" actually existed. Were they living in a dream world? Was the invitation to Nick and Honey a chance to show others they were a typical American married couple, but failing? Questions that Albee leaves up to you, the viewer. Right or wrong. Reality or Illusion. Truth or lies. the answers are all up to you.

"Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?" is on at the Nottingham Lace Market theatre until Saturday 17 October 2015. Don't be afraid to make up your own mind!!

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