Recent Posts

Sunday, 22 January 2023

REVIEW: Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Theatre Royal Bath

Edward Albee’s 1962 three-act play Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? is perhaps best known for the 1966 film which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the aggressive game-playing American couple who live on the campus of a small New England College. It is an uncomfortable challenging play over three Acts which are subtitled as a clue to the progressively unpleasant behaviours of the older protagonists. Act 1, Fun and Games, sees the couple Martha and George invite a young couple Nick and Honey back to their house at 2 am after a faculty party in a drunken series of interactions. Act 2, Walpurgisnacht (a reference to a witches' meeting) ups the tension as the games become more serious and fractious. Act 3, The Exorcism reveals the truths amongst the illusions and games. The result is a long evening in which the action, though dramatic, involves four particularly unsympathetic characters touching on child abuse, murder, adultery, sexual harassment, and bullying behaviours in the context of an unfulfilled career and inadequacies of marriage.

This latest production is staged in the Ustinov Theatre tucked around the back of the glorious Theatre Royal in Bath. It is a black-walled claustrophobic cramped venue which should offer the audience intimacy and engagement with the performance but the armless stiff-backed seats and heavy herbal cigarette smoke from the chain-smoking Martha created a heady uncomfortable atmosphere in which it was difficult to really settle and appreciate the production. It makes a sharp contrast to the Alan Ayckbourn 1965 comedy, Relatively Speaking, which is also a four-handed about martial problems and role-playing, which is on at the main house at Bath Theatre Royal and offers a much more fun and congenial evening’s entertainment. This play is said to have some laugh-out-loud moments but on my visit, those around me responded with stifled embarrassed chuckles and the sharp contrast between the comedy and the grim aggressive tone was missing.
Blog Design by pipdig