It is difficult to say exactly what “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is about and that was exactly what its writer, Edward Albee, intended. Some may say it is about marriage but it tackles so much more than that including topics like politics, morality and the human condition. However, what is at the heart of the play is truth and illusion.
The play moves from illusion to truth and as the audience progresses deeper and deeper into the stories we begin to realise what is going on behind the idyllic illusion presented by each of the couples. Even today this portrayal resonates with modern audiences due to the importance placed on appearance and what we should and shouldn’t know about one another. Of course, all these boundaries fall away and soon we are left with an overwhelming tension between the characters whether this be due to anger, betrayal or desire. The claustrophobic use of the living room – the sole setting – only emphasises the isolation and confinement of each character.
Although all four cast members gave stunning performances, the audience can’t help but be drawn to Imelda Staunton as Martha, a bullying wife hiding her fragile mental state, and Conleth Hill as George, the bitter husband burdened by his failures. You cannot take your eyes of this pair whether it be during the hide-behind-your-hands low blows of their arguments or the unusual calmer moments that still wreak of hostility.
As a whole, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a classic play which resonates with all audience members because, as said in one of the pre-show interviews, what is special about this play is that it has no strict description but instead is about whatever the audience take from it. An intense performance and beautifully crafted set propels this high tension drama into nerves-inducing brilliance.
National Theatre Live: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Gwyn Hall, Neath
May 19th 2017
Running time: 3 hrs
Author: Edward Albee
Director: James MacDonald
Design: Tom Pye (Designer), Charles Balfour (Lighting), Adam Cork (Sound and Music), Carole Hancock (Hair, Wigs and Make-up), Amy Ball (Casting), John Haidar (Assistant Director), Bret Yount (Fights), Penny Dyer (Dialect/ Voice), Imogen Knight (Choreography).
Cast: Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Imogen Poots, Luke Treadaway