Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events. www.weekendnotes.com/profile/121822
First staged in 1962, Edward Albee's emotionally punishing play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with its frank and brutal language was hailed a masterpiece. It has won many awards including the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1962-63 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play.
In 1966 movie director, Mike Nichols' premiere adaptation was hailed a shattering and unforgettable masterpiece. The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Mike Nichols. The film's hero and heroine, George and Martha, played by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, along with supporting actors George Segal (Nick) and Sandy Dennis (Honey) were all nominated in their respective acting categories.
Chris Leech, Mark Healy, Jessica Carroll and Julie Quick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Photo courtesy of The Theatre Guild.
The film won five awards, including Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor (her second Academy Award) and Best Supporting Actress for Sandy Dennis.
I was invited to the performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by The Theatre Guild at Little Theatre, off Victoria Drive. Despite The Guild's wonderful track record of numerous successful theatre productions, I did wonder how their presentation of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? would be regarded by a contemporary audience, when compared with the highly publicized and outstanding theatre and film performances.
Albee based the main characters of Martha and George on his two good friends, New York socialites Willard Maas and Marie Menken and their impassioned and explosive relationship.
I wondered how many of today's audiences would identify the significance of Albee's patriotic references to George and Martha namesakes - George and Martha Washington, and Nick's name being a direct reference to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet's threat to the United States and the ensuing Cold War turmoil with America. Albee uses the symbolic first couple's unhappy marriage as a metaphor for the imperfect state of the American dream and the substitution of artificial values for real values.
Director Geoff Brittain has produced a performance that has cleared away some of the political metaphors and concentrated more on the relationship and emotions that encompasses husband and wife, George and Martha; tenderness and cruelty, love and hate, sadness and humour. There are moments of sharp humour, others when it is genuinely tragic and overwhelmingly moving.
The performances from the entire cast are engaging as Martha (Julie Quick) and George (Chris Leach) capture the sense of vicious feuding during their boozy battles and cutting exchanges in their attempts to out stage one another. At times they draw their guests, Nick (Mark Healy) and Honey (Jesica Carroll), into battles to become mere pawns in their cruel exchanges and game playing.
For those who haven't seen the play before, I don't want to give too much away as the bitter resentment and game playing leads to a tragic secret at the very heart of the conflict between George and Martha, which becomes apparent only in the last act.
This black comedy is lively, the action of the story is continually gripping. and I found myself captivated during the entire performance. The cast did an excellent job, particularly Julie Quick as Martha and Chris Leach as George. I enjoyed their enthusiastic performance as much as I did Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film.
Julie Quick as Martha and Chris Leech as George. Photo courtesy of The Theatre Guild.
Although this was a play written and performed in the sixties, the conflict that occurs between the characters still has relevance today and stands the test of time. There is as much conflict in the world today, particularly personal conflict. Today, divorce rates are higher and, perhaps as depicted in this production, people back then were prepared to persevere with quarrelling and discord longer, rather than part company.
So seize the opportunity to drop in for drinks with George and Martha at the Little Theatre and brace yourself and see if you are afraid of the big bad wolf.
Tickets $28 Full / $23 Concession
ONLINE www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild (fee applies)
Tickets at the door subject to availability (cash only)
Group Bookings 10 at concession rate from 8313 5999 only.
Where:The Little Theatre, The Cloisters (off Victoria Drive), University of Adelaide. After hrs parking available in the University grounds Please allow extra time for parking when AFL games are at Adelaide Oval (ticket machine in Cloisters parking area.)
Cost:Tickets $28 Full / $23 Concession ONLINE www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild (fee applies) Tickets at the door subject to availability (cash only)