Theatre

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

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Neil Cooper

four stars

IT IS somehow fitting that Rapture Theatre's touring revival of Edward Albee's explosive 1962 play opens within the grounds of a university campus. George and Martha, the warring couple at the play's heart, after all, live within an old-school academic bubble in which they have to make their own amusement. Over the three and three quarter hours that follow in Michael Emans' production, the games they play almost destroy them, even as they're all that helps them to survive.

What is immediately striking as soon as Sara Stewart's blousy Martha and Robin Kingsland's George stumble through their front door is that, beyond the sparring, there is a deep-rooted affection between them. Kingsland plays George with an effete waspishness rising above his crushed intellect, so you get a glimpse of what Martha saw in him before disappointment set in. For all Martha's attention-seeking fury, in Sara Stewart's mercurial interpretation, she too only wants to be loved.

As Nick and Honey, the young couple Martha lures to her lair, there is nothing wet about Paul Albertson and Rose Reynolds' approach. Once the drink kicks in and the edifices of politesse collapse, Nick's brooding tough guy act looks increasingly ridiculous. As Honey too opens up, Reynolds etches in her goody-too-shoes routine with a sense of tragic denial.

The quartet literally drown their sorrows and it makes for a bruising and relentless ride, and only the heightened sense of mayhem sustaining things, and stops them from falling apart. By the end, all passion may be spent, but the pain in everyone's eyes looks set to fire up another day.