Edward Albee's 1960's play requires a real commitment from its performers and creatives - as well as its audiences! At its best, this is a powerful piece of theatre but handled incorrectly it can be just a very long, very shouty evening. Fortunately, the Tobacco Factory Theatres have put together a truly splendid production of this fascinating play.
In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee presents us with a scene of a combative couple playing out their games of truth, lies and viscious attacks in front of a young couple who come round for a late night "party". Set in a middle-ranked American University, the older, frustrated history lecturer, George (Mark Meadows) and Martha (Pooky Quesnel) , his wife and the daughter of the Principle are welcoming newcomer biology lecturer Nick (Joseph Tweedale) and his wife Honey (Francesca Henry).
Through the play, and despite the fact that none of these characters seem particularly pleasant, our sympathies move from character to character. Is George really the downtodden man, is Martha really the bitch she comes over as, is Nick as nice and naive as he seems and is Honey a flake? At times they are all of these things and at times they are not. Their stories and lies interweave as they throw verbal punch after verbal punch at each other.
It is a long evening, but it really didn't seem like it as the director (David Mercatali) drives the pace really hard. This is a wordy play so takes some careful handling, no problems here as we are drawn in and I had the genuine embarassment of feeling I was overhearing something private. Played in the round, this is almost an immersive experience.