Cast Martha, Natasha Portwood; George, Mark Edwards; Nick, John Prakapas; Honey, Kate Robards
American playwright Edward Albee in 1962, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? shot to fame following its 1966 film adaptation staring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard
Burton, whose explosive relationship added a terse extra dimension to the play's already toxic central partnership locked in a battle of words.
The story focuses on
George and Martha, who invite new professor Nick and his boozy wife Honey (both
never mentioned by name) over after a university faculty party, only to engage
in a night of vitriolic verbal foreplay with both one another and the younger
This production, from acting coach Ann James' theatre
company Urban Aphrodite, marks the group's first performance in a new collaboration with Sasha's. The theatre company have partnered with the Dongping Lu restaurant to take over their third floor attic space for a
one year residency (set to include Noel Coward’s Hayfever later in the spring) and it's a good fit.
With it's low-beamed ceilings and tiny stage
area furnished with homey ‘60s-style interior pieces by FACE Furniture (supposedly everything on the set
is for sale after production) the intimate space works well. The audience are quite-literally
perched on the edge of the action, like a fifth, unacknowledged guest in the living room, eavesdropping on the most uncomfortable of parties. This is
especially true for the audience block seated on the stage, which actors
walk perilously close to while navigating the standalone drinks cabinet
– beware trodden feet.
Director James, took the bold decision to run
the near three hour play unabridged, which is a long haul and may be tough
going for some, especially during the tense third act.
ensemble cast, however, mostly veterans of Shanghai's amateur dramatic
companies, including East West and the Shanghai Repertory Company, all shine in
equal but very different ways
in their respective roles, keeping our attention through the drinking (no one is
without a tumbler full of Bourbon for long),
infighting and emotional breakdowns, so the night doesn’t feel like a
is particularly noteworthy as Martha, whose character dominates the stage, cranking up the bitchiness for a battle of
wills and revelling in everyone else’s discomfort. Constantly sniping at
beleaguered husband George (Mark Edwards – also very good when throwing off
the yolk later in the play) she starts boozed up and descends further into vitriol.
It’s not all as intense as
it sounds however. There is some lovely physical comedy from Kate Robards
as the delicate (or slim-hipped) Honey, who quickly sickens from all the
alcohol, rocking herself better with the brandy bottle and attempting interpretive
dance on the throw rug. The young couple, completed by wholesome All-American
husband Nick (John Prakapas) are a
good light-hearted foil for the sniping, before they too get caught in the web
by Martha and George.
Assuming the cast
are able to continue at the same impressive level of stamina required to keep
up the emotionally draining pace needed for the full six night run, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a promising
start to the troupe's planned year.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is at Sasha's
(third floor) from Thursday 28- Saturday 30 March. See
full event details. Pre-order tickets at 187
2152 8625 or firstname.lastname@example.org