Here is a play where nothing is what it seems. A play that is exhausting, funny, twisted and manipulative. A play that is a brilliant work, recognized as a part of the composition of modern culture. Here is a play that I have many times heard of, but never read or seen before, until last night. Up until then, I did know of this play, but nothing of what it implied. Therefore Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is responsible for introducing me to a legendary play and it is an experience I will never forget.
I entered the theatre to observe Robert Kemp’s simple set design. Often sets can be appreciated for their ability to compliment the action of the play and set the scene. However as this play progressed, the set revealed itself to have a much more important role. To start with all I saw was loud wallpaper, homely carpet, a table covered in the debris of married life and two doors perfect for entrances and exits. However, as the characters inhabited the space, I became increasingly aware of the sets angle and its boundaries. For me, the angle constantly provoked an uneasy feeling, as if the stage were about the fall on the audience, while the boundaries for me enhanced the psychological state of the characters. There were times when I found myself thinking “the door’s just there, open it and leave” because the space was so claustrophobic even I needed to breathe. For me, Kemp is to be commended on his work, because it is rare that a set not only impresses and compliments a play, but enhances it.
It was clear that the cast were accomplished actors, as they were not only perfectly suited to their roles, but worked well as an ensemble. Initially I felt as if some performances were over the top, which I put down to direction. But on completion I appreciated not only the energy and delivery of the performances, but the greater repercussions that they had on the production (again put down to direction). The ensemble is to be commended on their ability to maintain a consistent strength throughout, as this play is clearly demanding.
All of the cast were responsible for the creation of some very colourful and monstrous characters. Andrew McFarlane was heartbreakingly confident as the victimized associate professor, George. While Kerith Atkinson graced the stage as Honey, a seemingly defenseless and simple 26-year-old with more strength and power then first realized. Then there was Nick, played by Scott Johnson, a character of brains and braun, and the audacity to challenge his host. However, for me, Andrea Moor, stole the show as Martha, with a plethora of facial expressions and a voice as distinct as Katherine Hepburn’s, I was nothing short of fascinated and intrigued by her performance. All of the characters had so many interesting levels and layers of existence that it was impossible not to appreciate and applaud the actors’ ability to present this to the audience.
I personally sat back and enjoyed the grandiose direction of Michael Gow. It’s not often that I truly appreciate direction because the production itself lacks in many areas. However, with such a cast and design, Gow had the ability to create moments of intense conflict and tension. As an audience member, I appreciated his means of communicating this ever complex tale.
I know that this show will become part of my history. It is a memorable and significant production, a fantastic play, and something that I will always be interested to see reproduced in the future.
Queensland Theatre Company presents
Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
by Edward Albee
Venue: Cremorne Theatre QPAC
Dates: 1 October - 3 November 2007
Tickets: $36 - $56. 26 & Under: $26
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