Review: Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? @ Comedy Theatre (Melbourne)

'Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf' - Image © Eugene Hyland
Alicia is former South Aussie living in Melbourne. She has been sharing her opinions online about comedy, theatre, and films for the past twelve years.

A haunting and exhausting experience, the 2024 Red Stitch Actors' Theatre production of Edward Albee’s 'Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?' is not for the faint-hearted.

A proper night at the theatre, this incredible production, which ran at almost three-and-a-half hours, certainly gives punters their money’s worth – even if you simply judge that on runtime alone.

While a long show to endure – and yes, I will try to avoid pointing out the sheer length of the production again, I think I’ve got my point across – the show is certainly one to soak and marinate in. Featuring Kat Stewart in the role of Martha starring opposite her real-life partner David Whiteley, in the role of her on-stage husband George, this is a show that takes the audience on both an emotional and psychological rollercoaster – leaving them with the intended nausea to round out the ride.

George and Martha are not a functional couple, and the play sees them inviting younger couple Nick (Harvey Zielinski) and Honey (Emily Goddard) over for nightcap after a party. As time and pace reveal, the audience learns that the younger newcomers have much more in common with their hosts than first led to believe.

VirginiaWoolf 2
Image © Eugene Hyland

This is a show that is filled with robust moments of discomfort, brought to life not only by the superb delivery from all actors, but with chilling soundscapes and clever yet subtle lighting design. Of particular note is the haunting and creepy use of shadows at the beginning of act three, a moment when the relentless nature of this show starts to truly reveal its heft.

The story teases the audience throughout, reflecting the words within the script uttered by Martha herself: “truth or illusion George; you don’t know the difference”. And nor do we, and with unrelenting intensity, despite being given somewhat of an answer at the end of the show, we are left feeling a sense of distrust and unease. Is it pleasant? Not exactly – but the show is certainly impressive in so many ways, even if it doesn’t exactly feel all that nice to watch.

Theatre lovers will adore this beautiful production and those who have become more accustomed to short-form content (colour me guilty) will find this experience a little more effort to get through. It’s not easy content either – and nor should it be. The difficult length and emotion of the play reflect the challenging subject matter, every bit of the production playing a part to make an intense and rattling whole.

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