At a fast 90 minutes, Edward Albee’s The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? is an intense and confronting drama about a family falling apart. Directed by Melissa Cantwell, I found it to be a brilliant and powerful production from Perth Theatre Company.
Martin (Michael Loney), a prize winning architect who’s just turned 50, announces to his best friend Ross (Ian Toyne) that he is having an affair with Sylvia. Who is a goat. Appalled, Ross tells Martins wife Stevie (Nicola Bartlett) and their son Billy (John Robertson). What follows is at turns funny, repulsive, tragic, and emotionally trying for the audience (and actors).
Bestiality is a hard topic to get around, and it’s not something you discuss over the dinner table. Although the play is about much more than that, and I’ve seen it before, I still struggle with the thought of it. The themes are confronting, thought provoking, and very controversial.
There were plenty of laughs at the beginning, as it has some very droll moments. Then Martin admits the truth about Sylvia and nervous laughter became uncomfortable, then silent. Intense silence.
Albee’s dialogue between Martin and Stevie was exceptionally realistic and had the easy comfortable familiarity that comes with being married for a long time.
Stevies controlled fury was stunning to watch – beautifully restrained emotions that suddenly exploded in fits of screaming and ornament throwing (don’t sit in the front row). I felt for her, trying to stay in control whilst hearing about this horrible, unimaginable affair. It was a stunning performance from Bartlett.
A strong performance from Loney as the conflicted Martin. He loves Stevie, but also loves Sylvia – who does he love more? “What, not whom”, Stevie yells at him at one point.
I thought the weakest character was Billy.I didn’t like him in the first production I saw (MTC, 2004) and again this time I thought the character was undefined. I felt like Albee didn’t capture the teenage / parent relationship accurately, and was using Billy as a plot pusher. As a result of this, I thought Robertson’s performance was vague, although the last lines “Mom . . . Dad” were chillingly pathetic.
A living room set (designed by recent WAAPA graduate Claude Marcos) worthy of an architects home, slowly gets destroyed during the performance. With a solid yet simple lighting design by Matthew Marshall, it felt like I was looking at someone’s living room.
Indeed, there was a distinct lack of audience contact, and it was only in the last few moments that any one made eye contact with the audience. It felt like I was watching TV, horrible, repulsive yet compelling reality TV.
You need an open mind to watch this play, but if the goat theme doesn’t alienate you, you will find it, as I did, to be a powerful, contemporary look on what Albee called “love, and loss, the limits of our tolerance and who, indeed, we really are”.
Perth Theatre Company presents
THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA?
by Edward Albee
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA)
Saturday 2 – 23 June 2007
Mondays 6.30pm, Tuesday – Saturday 8pm; Special times: Saturday 16 June @ 5pm
Stan: $35/ Conc: $25/ Groups: 6+ppl:$27
BOCS 9484 1133 www.bocsticketing.com.au