Jacq of all Trades, Master of Writing
How to murder your spouse without really killing them
Be afraid. Be very afraid. This diabolical play will take you into the depths of matrimonial hell. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a battle of words that are as deadly as slowly sipping poison. You will be taken on a journey of the emotional destruction of a marriage where the dialogue represents verbal missiles of buried bitterness.
When young couple, Nick and Honey are invited to Martha and George's home at 2am, after a university party, they had no idea of the marital slaughter they were about to witness. Martha has the aggression of a Pit Bull and George's passive aggressive approach has just as much bite. The verbal vomit between them has, for the past twenty-three years of their marriage, been fuelled with an endless supply of alcohol, used for medicinal purposes, of course.
The title Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is apparently a university joke where the words are sung to the tune of 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?' I'm not sure whether the title was chosen because Virginia Woolf suffered from mental illness, or simply because it rhymed with Big Bad Wolf, but it's obviously apparent that both Martha and George's behaviour relay their own frustration and depression. They were certainly partial to singing the tune of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? during peak times throughout the night.
It certainly appeared as if George and Martha took pleasure in luring young, hopeful, ambitious couples to their home as victims to their warped mind games. To George and Martha, their emotional destruction was a game; a game to test whether there were any feelings left inside them to destroy.
Throughout their twenty-three years of marriage, they nursed a secret that was the reason for their festering bitterness; a secret that was off limits in their verbal attacks, until this particular evening with Nick and Honey. It was the mention of their secret that would be the ultimate blow that finally cuts Martha to the core, and would end their game as hours later the sun begins to rise and their guests have been drained of their senses.
The play is disturbing to watch and sometimes shocking. From the time their guests arrive, Martha instates her authority by speaking down to the young couple, calling them 'kids' and referring to Nick as 'boy'. There is a sense of jealousy and envy towards Nick and Honey; a reminder perhaps of George and Martha's lost youth; missed opportunities and the disappointment of dashed dreams.
The energy expounded by Martha, brilliantly played by Kate McNair, reverberates throughout the theatre. Kate's flawless delivery is to be admired. She oozes the character of Martha with such conviction that it would be easy to believe that she is Martha and you're not just watching a performance. Her words flowed with such natural ease and were spat out with such venom that you couldn't help but feel her pain. There were also moments of vulnerability and compassion that were speckled throughout the performance at just the right moments. Personally, I found her performance truly outstanding.
George, played just as brilliantly by Noel Thompson, makes you switch from pitying him to hating him. His recital of Latin mass for the dead brings a climatic peak to the production and is the final dagger that wins the game they have been playing all night.
Nick, the new, young hopeful biology professor, also gave an impressionable performance as did his wife, Honey, whose sweetness, as her name implied, was becoming quite diluted as she downed glass after glass of brandy. She did not miss a beat throughout her performance; wavering in and out of emotional consciousness, seemingly present more in body than in mind. Her vulnerability was a stark contrast to Martha's bombastic command for attention.
Although this play was quite shocking in its savage exposure of the epitome of a nightmare marriage, the underlying tones were brilliantly delivered. It will certainly leave your mind reeling with mixed emotions and you will be contemplating the many underlying messages for days afterwards. Director, Noella Johnson, who played the role of Martha in a professional production in the late 70s, knew exactly how to present this production to ensure the maximum impact of the masterfully written dialogue was delivered to perfection. Her choice of casting will not disappoint.
The passion and dedication to the craft of theatre production was very apparent and I feel that many who have never experienced a community theatre production are missing out on a truly magnificent experience. Noel's crew worked hard behind the scenes to create the setting, lighting and sound that enhanced the story and allowed the audience to feel as if they were a part of the evening, thankfully, at a safe distance.
I encourage you to book in to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But, please keep in mind that it is not a feel good production. It's a powerful, shocking and disturbing play that you may relate to; make you appreciate your marriage more, or it may scare you from ever getting married. Book early and be sure to invite your friends.