Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee.
Directed by Cate Clelland. Set and costumes designed and created by Cate Clelland and company. Stage Manager Sophia Carlton. Lighting design. Nathan Sciberras. Sound design. Justin Mullins. Free Rain Theatre at ACT HUB. Kingston. September 2 – 17. 2022. Bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|The cast of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf|
At the close of Act One of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf a single spot beams down on university history professor George, standing alone in the centre of the living room of his university residence. Slowly a self-satisfied smirk of one-upmanship curls about his lips. Albee’s masterpiece of psychological sado-masochism, played out by middle-aged George and his vituperative wife, Martha, the privileged daughter of the university president erupts into a bitter and spiteful game of dog eat dog accusation and reciprocal recrimination. It is a game honed to painful perfection over years of combative and interdependent marriage. It is a vicious and destructive game in which George (Michael Sparks) and Martha (Andrea Close) clearly know the rules, interchanging the roles of victim and oppressor with instinctive, well-practised domination. It would be simple to regard Albee’s brilliantly insightful and laser sharp text as a cynical condemnation of matrimonial discord.
George and Martha’s cathartic ritual of self-deprecation and abusive exploitation takes on a more sinister impact with the arrival of newly arrived biology professor Nick (Josh Wiseman) and his young wife Honey (Karina Hudson). The older couple have invited the newbies back for late night drinks after attending a function hosted by Martha’s authoritative father. The unwitting flies are lured menacingly into the spiders’ intricately woven web of painful secrets and dangerous vulnerabilities.brutal exposure of his impotence. As the game plays out, Nick and Honey find themselves irrevocably embroiled in the cruel rules of Humiliate the Host, Hump the Hostess, Get the Guests and Bringing Up Baby. Lies are revealed, truths are exposed. Nick and Honey depart forever changed as they walk out into the cold New England air, leaving George and Martha in a comforting embrace. George is gently singing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf..Virginia Woolf…Virginia Woolf.”
Albee’s emotionally harrowing microscopic play demands the finest performances from actors who are at the top of their game. Cate Clelland’s cast present an extraordinary rollercoaster ride of emotional polarity. Sparks strides the chasm of meek intimidation to vicious accusation. Close spits her vituperative insults in one instant while wailing with heart rending despair at George’s cruel torment. Hudson gives an extraordinary performance of the fragile, slim hipped Honey, one moment spitting with hysterical spite and another withdrawing into and alcoholic haze. Wiseman skirts the perilous path of bright young cocky confidence of his privileged position and his sexual and intellectual inferiority. Clelland’s casting is superb and her actors give performances that are equal to the very best at Canberra’s new performance venue ACT HUB.
This production is another ACT HUB gem that will sparkle in the memory long after the lights go down.