Displaying items by tag: Albee

"Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is defiantly my play. I borrowed a 4 LP box set of the original 1962 cast New York production from my brother Hugh and I still have not returned it. I must have listened to it about 300 or 400 times. I bought the script for it 50 years ago on the 6th October 1967. I have lived with that play as some sort of unintelligible backdrop to my emotional life and yet I have never had the opportunity to see a production. And I never saw the film. But I have constantly been drawn to it’s poetic nature, the rhythm of the text, even though the content is disturbing and savage. I have remained obsessed, mystified and delighted

I have never even read any critique or explanation about the play, its content and its inner themes. I have never before written about my connection to the play. I seldom speak about it to other people, even though remans  there in the background, like some older relative of my family who has influenced me in some way but we never meet up.

So I was excited and a bit apprehensive when I heard a production was coming to my home town. I think if it had been an amateur production I might not have gone. It might be too upsetting for me to see a production that wasn’t anything like the one that I have had in my head all these 50+ years. When I bought my ticket it was a reassured  to be told that they were performing an uncut version- I wanted to hear it all… I wanted to slog through the whole drunken evening.

And the joy was that the production and acting met practically every expectation for me. It was everything I was looking for. It was a faithful and unapologetic interpretation, with no compromises or attempts to update it. The set ‘set the scene’ well, clearly giving an impression of  that 1950’s living room of a house on a campus of a small New England college. It was cramped, given the size of the stage at the Eastgate, but the actors worked well with the challenge.

The interpretation of the play slotted beautifully into my inner vision of it. It was a joy to see George, Martha and Nick acting the play, for the most part, the way I had imagined them too.  Inevitably there were a few discrepancies from my inner version- some of them added to my enjoyment and occasionally I thought that they had missed a trick. Honey was not quite as I have imagined her to be and I was surprised and delighted that I found I actually preferred her interpretation to mine. It must be challenging to inhabit the role a miserable little simp for an entire play. But her interpretation added something fresh and new to my enjoyment.

It is nearly six months since I saw the production. If I had sat down immediately after it and written, then I would have had more specific recollections. But I do remember walking back from the theatre with the contented knowledge that I don’t need to see a production of it ever again." 

Julian Goodacre, Eastgate Theatre Customer

Published in Archive Articles
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Who's Afraid of Feminism?

Michael Cox speaks with Sara Stewart about how feminism and modern society have changed the way audiences view Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the role of Martha.

Michael Cox: When the play first opened there were a lot of charges against Albee that he was a misogynist and anti-women. There were people in the 60s who actually accused him of disguising the fact that it was really a play about four gay men. So, my first question is—over 50 years later—do you see Martha more as a masculine role or do you really think she is a feminine role who’s just strong in her ways?

Sara Stewart: Yeah, okay. I get that argument, and I think there’s an element of truth in the writings of Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward and Edward Albee. They were not allowed to have gay characters in their plays at that time. So, I’m sure they sublimated a lot of gay men into female roles, and thank God they did because some of the best writing for women has come from these gay playwrights who actually allowed female characters to have wit and guts and personality. They are the better writers for women, I think. Now, as a woman, she doesn’t strike me as masculine at all! She’s a fully rounded out person. Actually, I think, conversely, he was highlighting the tragedy of women who were stuck in a position they weren’t able to fully flourish and be their full selves. They were judged on appearances and their ability to have babies and whether they were a good wife or not. I sort of witnessed that in my mother, too. And I’m pleased to say that I do feel that in my lifetime there are all these women in society who have really changed, so that I now can look at my daughter, who’s just coming out of college. She’s 22, and she has a very different set of yard sticks that she’s going to measure her achievements that she values herself with. I find that very…moving.

Michael: Would you say that Virginia Woolf is now a period piece because society has shifted so drastically?

Sara: I do think it’s a period piece in some senses. We did come to that agreement on day one. There are certain things about this play that fix it very squarely in its time, but there are things that are outrageously relevant. There’re just so many different opportunities that are available now that weren’t available then. Martha should have been a teacher at the college. Why did she have to marry into the college? Why couldn’t she have trained to be a teacher herself? So, yeah, there are things that fix it squarely in its time, but there are human truths that are, and always will be, relevant.

Michael: There are also things that happen in this play that a modern audience would probably look at differently than audiences in the 60s. We look at the alcoholism differently. We look at the roles…not just Martha but Honey. I think Honey, in a modern light, is certainly different. I think she was the comic relief then but I think she’s more of a tragic figure in a modern context.

Sara: Yeah, that might be true. Absolutely. Because she’s someone that you sense is a free spirit, and the system is already crushing her. And I suppose sexuality is a big theme as well. Albee’s pretty honest and quite brave, I think, having Nick say that he and Honey don’t really have a sexual relationship. But the fact that Martha is…it must have been shocking in its time…the fact that she is so sexually aggressive and so sexually confident. I just think it’s great, actually. When it was written, they didn’t even think women had orgasms. It must have been so shocking.

Michael: That and homosexuality was a mental illness.

Sara: Exactly. So, the idea that a woman had an actual sexual appetite in itself was really shocking. Whereas now, I think it’s still unusual to portray a middle-aged woman as being a person who has a sexual appetite. It’s still a taboo. So I relish that opportunity.

Michael: And when it’s done it’s usually for laughs.

Sara: Exactly! Oh my God, it’s my casting. I get cast as that a lot, the sort of…the comic MILF. It’s funny, an older woman being a bit sexy or mutton dressed as lamb or whatever it is. We’re not sending Martha up for that. We’re not making her ridiculous in her sexuality. She’s a red-blooded woman.

© Michael Cox

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
3rd May to 3rd Jun, 2017

Published in Archive Articles
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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


“The most important American playwright of his generation!”  The New York Times on Edward Albee 

A marathon night of drink, debauchery and duplicity develops after Martha and her husband George invite unsuspecting young couple, Nick and Honey, round for a nightcap. Drink flows, spiked with vicious humour, acerbic wit and tempestuous verbal sparring. However, as night turns to morning, searing secrets are exposed.

Putting the ‘fun’ into dysfunctional, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf wryly exposes the dark attraction in relationships and the bitterest ties that bind us all.

Starring Rose Reynolds, Robin Kingsland and Paul Albertson, with Scottish actress Sara Stewart (The Night Manager, Rebus, Batman Begins, Doctor Foster) leading the cast as Martha. Directed by Michael Emans, design by Frances Collier and Lighting by Mark Doubleday.

Following acclaimed productions of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Michael Frayn’s Tony award-winning DemocracyRapture returns with Edward Albee’s thrilling play.  In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the multi-Oscar winning film (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor), this is a rare opportunity to experience an iconic American masterpiece.

The most talked about play this season. Unmissable!


Published in Past Productions

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