Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? @ Harold Pinter Theatre
Cast: Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots
Running Time: 3 hours, inc. interval
The late Edward Albee is proving popular in the West End this year – as well as The Goat (Or Who is Sylvia?) which opens later this year, we also have this star-studded revival of his most-known work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This fiery piece features a young couple being ‘entertained’ by the warring George and Martha (played to perfection by Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill) and proves to be a taut and tense production, so much so that it hit the news recently because eating has been banned in the auditorium.
The production translates well to the stage of the Harold Pinter – it feels intimate and the naturalistic set gives a good replication of a middle-class American home, One of the production choices that seems strange though is the rather long second half (which contains both Acts 2 and 3 with a five minute pause). This would have worked better with Acts 1 and 2 shown before the interval due to the lack of time passed between them, and Act 3 after due to the definite passage of time between that and Act 2. Act 2 also works as a better interval as there is higher dramatic tension between the leads.
The cast assembled for this production of Woolf is phenomenal. Staunton brings a masterful performance as Martha, with a venom and power that is frightening, but also a fragility in the closing scenes that is moving. Hill has the challenging task in the power struggle – at times he must be put upon and downtrodden and then ultimately in charge and does both beautifully. Both Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots present the younger couple skilfully. Treadaway really plays on the character’s ambitious nature well and Imogen highlights the delicate and fragile nature of Honey.
Summary: A tremendous cast provides a thrilling and tense revival of this classic by Albee. A must for all fans of the modern classic. *****