Review: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

Charles Essex reviews Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woold at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

Mark Crossley, Jasmine Hutchings, James McCabe and Julie-Ann Randell in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (photo: Richard Smith Photography)

Returning in the early hours from one of her father’s late night parties, Martha (Julie-Ann Randell) had invited two of the partygoers Nick (James McCabe) and Honey (Jasmine Hutchings) to come back for drinks, much to the exasperation of her husband George )Mark Crossley).

George, a professor at a small university, and Martha, daughter of the principal, bicker and squabble but become increasingly venomous and vindictive in their accusations and mutual recriminations. They clearly have a tempestuous and volatile relationship but why do they stay together after 23 years as Martha increasingly goads and belittles George? He in turn responds passive-aggressively with intermittent verbal counterpunches. The audience is teased with veiled threats from George to Martha not to talk about their son.

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Over three acts George and Martha openly argue in front of Nick and Honey, yet the latter couple stay rather than heading for the door. Martha’s flirting with Nick and George’s weary indifference were portrayed well. This excellent script tantalised with the implications that there was more to Honey’s back story than met the eye and Jasmine did particularly well as she spent quite some time on stage being drunk and flaky and at other times hysterical.

You thought Abigail’s Party was cringe-making? This is a long play but it is a credit to Edward Albee’s script, director Gordon Vallins and the actors that the what’s-going-to-happen-next keeps our attention transfixed. Gradually the boot shifts to the other foot as George starts taking the more aggressive and vindictive role towards the others, drawing Nick and Honey into this grotesque, almost sadomasochistic folie á quatre.

Mark’s switch from the humiliated ineffectual husband to the hurtful aggressor as he demeans both Martha and the guests was marvellous acting. Julie-Ann conveys an increasing frustration at her inability to provoke George and at his control of the situation.

All four roles were extremely demanding and we saw acting of the highest quality throughout the play. Once again The Loft delivered a top-drawer performance.

The play runs until May 14. Visit lofttheatrecompany.com or call 01926 830680 to book.