Review written by Saskia Penn and Connor Johnston:
Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is an iconic piece of 20th Century Americana, often considered one of the greatest scripts in theatrical history. Winterfall Theatre’s current season of the classic play presents a raw, realistic, and compelling interpretation of the complex material and its utter success is owed, in no small part to the miraculous performances presented by the accomplished cast.
The three hour-long study in the dynamics of marriage is strung with an incredible, palpable tension throughout, the claustrophobic atmosphere thick with bourbon. At times highly absurd, at times strangely funny, at times genuinely frightening and at times truly challenging, this post modern giant dances like the wind on the edge between reality and illusion. Through the violent throes of breakdown, the deepest, darkest freudian truths and fantasies of the characters are revealed, allowing the audience a rare opportunity for genuine intellectual stimulation.
Chris Connelly as George gave a commanding and intense performance, the evening’s puppeteer. Connelly’s stage presence is incredible and his ability to both intimidate and disturb the other characters is equally impressive. Though there may seem to be a power balance at times between George and his wife, as the plot continues it is clear that George is the most influential player on the board. Jordan Fraser – Trumble is assertive in his portrayal of Nick, providing a strong contrast to George’s cynicism and also as an item of fascination for Mary. Equally impressive is Cassandra Magrath in the role of Honey; the only real ‘innocent’ character of the show. Honey is both charming and lovably clueless – a mixture of characteristics that Magrath channels effortlessly.
The highest praise must go to Michele Williams whose portrayal as the unhinged Martha was the most compelling performance of the night. Her bead-like, almost expressionless eyes gave the haunting impression of a woman who died inside long ago; her dry delivery of certain lines was equally as intriguing. Williams is clearly in her element on stage, capturing both her character’s vulnerability and strength. Her physical composure even in the most trying of circumstances remains intact, despite visibly crumbling both emotionally and mentally. The four should be commended on their ability to maintain the quick rapid-fire pacing of their dialogue – not a single moment of the play felt stale or lagging. The entire onslaught was thoroughly engaging, which is no small feat given the duration of the piece. The simple staging and costuming was understated and cleanly effective, presenting an accurate and identifiable time period while allowing for the power of the performances and the content to be the focus.
As the younger couple are drawn into Martha and George’s wicked games, so do the audience become entwined into the twisted drama. A show that stays with the audience even after leaving the theatre, Winterfall have once again asserted themselves as pioneers of the Australian Theatre scene.
“Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” closes this week at the Black Box Theatre in Kew. For more information about the show, future productions, or to book tickets; you can visit the Theatre Company’s website: http://www.winterfalltheatre.com