REVIEW: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

PUBLISHED: 14:55 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:07 07 September 2010

Trafalgar Studio 2 near Charing Cross Five stars The play was first produced in 1962 in the Kennedy era just as the Cuban crisis was about to take effect. But no politics, or in fact anything that is going on outside, is ever going to affect George and M

Trafalgar Studio 2

near Charing Cross

Five stars

The play was first produced in 1962 in the Kennedy era just as the Cuban crisis was about to take effect. But no politics, or in fact anything that is going on outside, is ever going to affect George and Martha.

They are too obsessed by their private war of passion and fantasy. They are everything to each other and any outsiders are only there to be used as pawns in their monstrous games.

Anyone who has seen Matthew Kelly as the jovial giant hosting television shows would not recognise the grumpy, shambling wreck of a man in rumpled cords and cardigan who appears so close to us on the Studio space.

This is probably the subtlest most intelligent delineation of this famous role made universally famous by Richard Burton in the film of the same name.

He is well matched by Tracey Childs who, for most of the play, is as cold and hard as the ice she insists on having in her drinks - only to rend our hearts when she finally tells the story of her much loved but imaginary child.

They are equal players in the game. He refuses to get drawn out of his grouchy sullenness and she buzzes around him spitting out insults. "If you existed, I would divorce you," she tells him, taunting him to try to get a violent reaction. And, when she finally succeeds, the result is electrifying.

The young couple, who are spectators and eventually participants in their cruel games, are accurately characterised.

Mark Farrelly plays the ambitious Nick, who will do almost anything to stay on the right side of Martha because she is the daughter of the college president.

Honey, his drunken and almost unbelievably stupid wife is played by Louise Kempton who is definitely an actress to watch.

She is almost a play in herself as she exhibits different stages of drunkenness throughout.

The set is as stuffy as one would expect from the insularity of a middle-class 50s couple who just don't care. And the claustrophobic effect of the small studio theatre, with its audience on three sides, adds enormously to the atmosphere of the self-made prison the characters inhabit.

Until May 9.


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