National Theatre Live’s screening of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ probably isn’t the ideal outing for anyone with `relationship issues’!
But if you’re in the mood to see brilliant acting, then it’s well worth considering.
London critics were unanimous in their praise for this new production of Edward Albee’s classic play. Directed by James Macdonald, it was staged at the Harold Pinter Theatre earlier in the year. Through National Theatre Live’s filming of the production, it’s now showing at selected Australian cinemas.
‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ is set in the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college. Martha, much to her husband George’s displeasure, has invited a new young professor, Nick, and his wife, Honey, to their home for some after-party drinks. Even before the couple arrive it’s obvious there are serious problems with Martha and George’s marriage. On their arrival Nick and Honey are initially spectators to Martha and George’s verbal violence and destructive game playing. But then they too become participants, and during the three hour play all four characters are subjected to ridicule and humiliation.
At the same time, albeit briefly, there are also moments of humour, kindness and affection. However, the emotional turmoil, anger and frustration of the characters far outweigh any `happy’ moments. While this made the play very difficult to watch, it was also very involving.
Occasionally I found myself sympathetic towards – and at other times extremely outraged by – the behaviour of both Martha and George, and to a lesser extent Nick.
It’s easy to see why the critics were so enamoured with the production and why many consider Imelda Staunton to be the best Martha yet. She brilliantly portrays her character’s continually changing emotional state. Her near uncontrollable rage is equally as convincing as her absolute anguish.
Conleth Hill also understandably won rave reviews for his portrayal as the seemingly ineffectual and very frustrated George, who causes just as much heartbreak and turmoil as Martha. Luke Treadaway is convincing as the confident and arrogant Nick while Imogen Poots is equally as credible as the sweet, bewildered and vulnerable Honey.
It’s the believable acting of the cast that makes this production so engrossing, yet at times so heartbreaking.
‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ is screening at selected cinemas around Australia. Visit the Sharmill website for more information.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson
Jenny Burns attended a preview of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ as a guest of Sharmill Films.