Saturday, April 07, 2007

Truth and Illusion (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Royal Exchange Manchester)

No blogging for a couple of days because I've been up visiting my ancestral roots up in Lancashire. The trip included taking in the revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

I think their are probably few better places to stage Albee's masterpiece than the cockpit like Exchange, with the audience arranged around the front room of George and Martha's New England house like the crowd at medieval bear baiting pit. And baiting is what transpires in that front room, as the middle-aged college professor and his wife tear into each other for three hours (did I mention another reason why the exchange is perfect for this play is that it has modern comfy chairs).

Martha and George may have loved each other once, but now they fill their days with sniping and game playing, the game seemingly being who can drive the other to madness first. On this evening they are joined for a night-cap by Nick the new young professor on campus and his beautiful loving wife Honey. The evening soon descends into alcohol fuelled, emotional violence as George and Martha tear into each other leaving Nick and Honey's seemingly perfect marriage as collateral damage.

This is an excellent production, that, despite its three hours, maintains a breathless pace throughout. It is highlighted by a show stopping performance by Phillip Breatherton as George (who despite having been in Footballer's Wives can, it appears, really act) ably supported by Barbara Marten as the harridan Martha. I was less sold on Michael Begley who was a slightly wooden Nick, and Joanne Froggatt who does her best with the underwritten Honey.

This is well worth catching in the last couple of weeks of its run.


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