Free Rain-Theatre presents: "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
Directed by Cate Clelland, ACT Hub until 17 September 2022
Reviewed by Simone Penkethman
Andrea Close and Michael Sparks as Martha and George
Upon being asked to review this show, my first thought was: “Why is this play being mounted here and now?”
Edward Albee’s “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is now 60
years old. It’s an American play about a jaded, middle-aged academic and his alcoholic
wife who terrorize a younger couple throughout a night of heavy drinking. It’s
best known to many of us from the acclaimed 1964 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor
and her twice married and divorced husband Richard Burton.
From its opening scenes, this cleverly-staged production brought
the brilliance and dark hilarity of Albee’s text to life.
Andrea Close as Martha owned her role with wit and swagger
while and Michael Sparks as George was in equal parts a dryly comic victim and a
The younger couple, Nick (Joshua Wiseman) and Honey, (Karina
Hudson) were well cast and worthy opponents in the various drunken
psychological games played throughout the night: humiliate the host; hump the
hostess; get the guests; and bringing up baby.
The entire story is set in one room. Director and set
designer, Cate Clelland made good use of the wooden floors at the Hub to create
an authentic, loungeroom feel. Seating the audience in raised rows on three sides
of the action brought a sense of intimacy to the space and heightened voyeurism
to the audience experience.
Strong physical performances and confident direction ensured
that energy ebbed and flowed throughout the show. At times, characters would turn
away from the action and toward the audience allowing us close-up glimpses into
their emotional state.
The text of “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Is surprisingly
fresh. During one of the two intervals (it’s a long show), I heard someone
remark on how relevant it is to Australian society today. To me this begs the
question of why it was performed in assumed American accents.
The voicework was a highlight, particularly in the female
characters. Assumed accents are almost invariably uneven and in this case, they
detracted rather than added to the fine work on stage.
Of the three shows I have reviewed so far at the ACT Hub
only one was written this century and two were performed in assumed American
With the high level of skill and dedication involved in the
ACT Hub, I hope our local companies can be more adventurous in future