Trench warfare in marriage

Clare Higgins and Tim Pigott-Smith

Clare Higgins and Tim Pigott-Smith as the warring couple, Martha and George

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Malvern Theatres

*****

WITTY yet disconcerting at the same time, this famed play of a disfunctional husband and wife's marital breakdown is completely compelling.

You may wince as the middle-aged pair trade insults and sadistically humiliate each other and the young couple visiting them, but you also won't be able to look away.

Edward Albee's humorous words and characters seem as fresh today as when the play was created in 1962 but there is the added bonus of two outstanding actors playing the warring couple.

Clare Higgins and Tim Pigott-Smith are sublime in the roles of eccentric Martha and George - the roles famously played by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film version.

Then there's Nathan Wiley and Iris Roberts in support, making it a strong cast all round under the direction of Adrian Noble.

Set during one night on a New England university campus, George and Martha have invited over new young ambitious colleague Nick and his wife Honey after a faculty drinks party.

Their behaviour gets more and more bizarre over the three hour play, which reflects badly on all four characters as their secrets and lies come to the surface.

Writer Albee admitted that he got the idea for the title after seeing graffiti in a bar with the words "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf". He's subtly weaved those words into the play as every now and then Martha or Honey will sing those words to the tune of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" It's almost sinister in tone and the eventual insinuation is that it really related to who's afraid of "living life without false illusions".

It's a bumpy night of salacious yet hysterical and playful antics. It's almost car crash telly but with a lot more style. To 12-07-14

Alison Brinkworth

07-07-14 

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