The four cast members prove to be phenomenal as Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? opens in the West End.
Inviting their new colleague and wife, young married couple Nick and Honey to a quiet after party, associate professor George and college president’s daughter Martha are far from idyllic hosts. From the guests’ hilarious poorly timed arrival through to the deeply unsettling climax, George and Martha inflict them to their twisted emotional manipulation in a production that is equally mesmerising and unnerving.
Unfolding in a single setting over the course of three hours, split into three acts, Who’s Afraid Of Virgnia Woolf? circles around stunning performances by each of the four cast members. Imelda Staunton as Martha and Conleth Hill as George boil with a seething chemistry as their relationship seemingly disintegrates in front of the audience. Comparable newcomers Luke Treadaway (Nick) and Imogen Poots (Honey) stand confidently next to the veteran actors; the latter delivering her occasional one-liners with notable precision.
Together the play draws the audience into the sadistic evening of games, inflicting the same unease as on their naïve visitors. As each character accidently reveals further personal insights, the tangled web of deceit, frustration and visceral anger envelops the whole theatre. The incredible dialogue supports the ominous air, delivered with brilliantly subverted humour.
Each act surpasses the last for sheer tension, ultimately leaving the party-goers visibly deflated. Come their eventual bedtime, the protagonists have forced the audience to undertake a similar emotionally exhausting journey. It’s testament to the fundamental skill of the actors, and the marvellous source material.
Presenting a deconstruction of social perceptions and expectations, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? consistently questions the blur between reality and illusion, and how the two affect interaction and behaviour. It delves into the impact of others on self-worth and obligation, and discovers something genuinely disturbing.
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is running now at London’s Harold Pinter Theatre. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.co.uk.