Multi Tony Award playwright Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf plays at The Harold Pinter Theatre until 27 May. However, with Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill tearing through Albee’s heart ripping play, it is a shame that it isn’t playing indefinitely.
The play follows George (Hill) and Martha (Staunton) and their desperate struggle for power in their wilting marriage. The fight cracks and sparks in front of doe-eyed Honey (played by endearing Imogen Poots) and her husband Nick (played by Luke Treadaway), until a winner is crowned.
The play begins with married couple George and Martha, quipping and lightly insulting each other. The chemistry between Conleth and Staunton is charming right from the start and they flit off each other effortlessly. As the play unravels and sleep is swapped for alcohol, the battle between Martha and George intensifies.
Staunton and Hill take us on Albee’s rollercoaster and leave the audience gripping their seats. Staunton is phenomenal as Martha, although the play spans just over three hours, if she had ended a minute sooner my heart would have stopped. Hill is captivating as George, and as the battle commences, his subtle, sarcastic take on George is both amusing and unsettling in equal measures.
Directed by James Macdonald, the actors carefully share centre stage without the pace dropping for a second. Macdonald has the audience in the palm of his hands as the audiences eyes whip from character to character always secure that they will be watching the right one, because they cannot look away.
Although the show is dark and twisted, Albee’s play is peppered with light jokes, which are delivered well by the cast. It is amusing to watch the characters poke fun at each other, until suddenly the playful poke turns into a stab.
As the story unravels, Nick and Honey are sucked into the twisted games of Martha and George and Poots and Treadaway play this contrasting couple well.
The design of the show (by Tom Pye) is exquisite and is the perfect setting for the safe, secure home that Macdonald invites us into.
Sonia Friedman has yet another hit on her hands, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a must see. Staunton gives every inch of her soul in the role of Martha, and by the final curtain, she had also taken a piece of mine.
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