By Tom Penman
The basic plot of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is this: an unpleasant, manipulative and deluded couple called George and Martha are visited by a pair of wet social climbers called Nick and Honey. They then proceed to drink more than freshers preparing for a birthday party at Klute, shout a lot and argue about the nature of reality. It is safe to say that the play itself is not my favourite, however, the cast provides a flawless performance making it an exciting and successful production.
All four of the actors do the play enormous justice. There is not a moment when any of them let their performance drop. Every single motion, from facial expression to movement across the stage, is perfectly planned and yet the actors also manage to maintain complete naturalism. Ewan South gives a George who is sinister and permanently on the brink of insanity. His wide staring eyes and bitter smile, not to mention condescending and unpredictable attitude, gives this impression perfectly. I have to ask why he has an English accent whilst all the others have American accents, he uses Americanisms and he refers to growing up in New York. Aside from this, though, South is on sparkling form. Kate Cervenak’s Martha is very different: loud and brash. She is irritating and intense, but the fact that she is such an irritating character is, I think, testament to Cervenak’s talent. She too is unpredictable, but she manages to balance what seems like her insanity with her continued desire to play the charming hostess.
Of the four characters, perhaps the most likeable is Nick, played by Sebastien Pironnet. For most of the time, Pironnet plays the part as a someone clearly uncomfortable in the surroundings and frustrated by his own position in it. However, I feel at times the believability of his character begins to break down: he seems to go from sober to drunk rather too quickly at the beginning of the second act, but aside from this minor quibble, he manages his character brilliantly. Finally, we have Lowri Mathias as Honey, easily the most passive of the characters. Mathias is extremely good in her role: presenting both sides of her characters drunk nature (the fun-loving one who insists on dancing and the one who curls up on the sofa and says she’s going to die) extremely well. From obsessing over Nick to talking nonsense, Mathias is a textbook performance.
Particular mention should also be given to the production team who provide a brilliant set. They manage to create a realistic sixties sitting room complete with armchairs, sofas, and a fully stocked drinks cabinet.
Overall, the interaction between the four actors is very good, however, at times they get a little too ahead of themselves meaning that events sometimes end up happening out of sync with the dialogue. I also feel that the actors rely too heavily on shouting to deliver their lines in particular scenes. Nevertheless, I felt that the play was extraordinarily energetic and it is a real feat that the actors kept it up for so long. From the remarkable acting talent to the transformation of the room, it was perfectly executed.