The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? @ Theatre Royal Haymarket
Cast Includes Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo
Running Time: 1 hour 50 mins, no interval
Edward Albee is enjoying a resurgence in revival’s this summer, with this revival of his later work The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (which I’ve reviewed here) joining his most famous, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nearby. With both playing at similar times it is difficult to not compare them, with The Goat being arguably the lighter of the two due to it’s comical subject matter, though they both share particularly dark moments.
The Goat focuses on the character of Martin (Lewis) who falls in love with Sylvia, a goat, and the impact this has on his wife and career when this is found out. By throwing his family into crisis it tackles the notion of taboo in society, and what is conventionally right and wrong, comparing Martin’s bestiality with his dislike of his son’s homosexuality. It does however sometimes feel slightly too long, and sometimes the arguments feel slightly too circuitous and verge on repetitive, and the piece might have been stronger with a few judicious edits.
The cast in this production are exceptionally strong, most notably Sophie Okonedo as Martin’s wife, Stevie – she gives a phenomenal performance, and her utter rage is a complete spectacle to watch. She gives Stevie so many shades that range from denial and disbelief to complete disgust with her husband is amazing. Damian Lewis also gives a strong turn as Martin – he has the unenviable job of being the tragic centre of a humorous idea, and plays Martin with a sensitivity that doesn’t send the character into caricature.
The set for the piece is also well thought out, and with Stevie’s utter rage and destroy of this being particularly effective. It is the representation that works well, with Stevie destroying Martin’s award being clever – through his betrayal he has lost not only her but also his career.
Summary: A well presented and timely revival of a lesser-known work by the late American playwright. ****