EUTCO’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf examines the mechanics of married life in an intense, violent and energetic production that lets Edward Albee’s famous text speak for itself.
Harnessing the playwright’s electric dialogue, EUTCO cast a glaring spotlight on the disturbing yet believable relationship between George, a college professor in a US university (Ashley Gillard) and his wife Martha (Katherine Lea). When Martha invites Nick (Johny Gill), a young professor recently arrived on campus, and his wife Honey (Antonia Whillans) round for late night drinks, the world’s most uncomfortable party ensues. The audience witnesses the dissection of both marriages through a series of dark ‘games’, blurring the line between reality and illusion.
Katherine Lea commands the stage as the production’s powerful driving force
The play focuses principally on the secrets that lie behind George and Martha’s destructive co-dependent partnership. From the outset, Katherine Lea commands the stage as the production’s powerful driving force. Her Martha is simultaneously magnetic and unsettling, oscillating between cutting her husband to shreds with barrages of insults to displays of surprising vulnerability. This makes the audience believe in a character that goes beyond the lazy ‘mad wife’ caricature it could be tempting to subscribe to. Ashley Gillard’s George compliments Martha perfectly, employing lines laced with sarcasm, wit and irony that add an intriguing comedy to the piece. The audience laughs whilst the dysfunctional couple appears to implode.
Themes of inner-complexity and reality vs. unreality, as well as the examination of power balance makes this play well worth seeing
It is primarily this dark humour that prevents the play from being nothing more than a grim dirge through a flawed marriage. There is something amusing in the juxtaposition between the seemingly happy, naïve Nick and Honey and the grotesque George and Martha. It could even be said that we gain a sort of perverse satisfaction when we learn that George and Honey’s relationship is not as perfect as it first appears. The audience is reminded that we all have secrets, and that often our expectations of life do not match its reality. Antonia Whillans’ Honey proves this in the way in which her character’s true complexity surfaces above a one-dimensional exterior.
These themes of inner-complexity and reality vs. unreality, as well as the examination of power balances make this play well worth seeing. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the violence, sexual politics and intensity of works such as Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. The cast should be commended on their stamina and success in sustaining the rhythm of this reasonably lengthy piece. Production-wise, more inventive use of lighting would enhance the onstage action; however superb acting and a real appreciation of the script’s nuances are more than enough to treat the audience to a challenging and rewarding theatrical experience.