I know, I know, you could hardly sleep last night for wondering whether or not I enjoyed the play. The answer is, well, yes, sort of! To be fair it was actually the day itself I didn't enjoy very much because 'Houston, we had a problem'! From 'down 'ere in deepest, darkest Zummerzet' the cheapest way into London is by a local coach company. An excellent service which departs from Wincanton at 8.45am and drops you at Hammersmith bus-station/Underground at 11.00am. The problem yesterday was getting back! The last coach departs at 6.15pm. Now normally, a matinee curtain comes down around 5.00/5.15pm which is comfortable timing, it being 8 stops from Piccadilly to Hammersmith. Alas, when Edward Albee wrote his play he made it, in President Trump's words, 'yuuuuuuge' so I guessed it would end at 5.30pm which made the return timings tight but not impossible. Alas, when I reached the theatre I was informed that actually the curtain was coming down about 5.40pm. This, in the words of the dear, old 'Duke of Boot', would make it "a fine run thing, the finest thing you ever saw!" I was somewhat on edge throughout the performance and at 5.30 I lost my nerve and made a quick exit - well, dammit, I know how it ended but even so, the ending is a real choker if done right so I was disappointed to miss it. To cap a more than somewhat fraught day, on the journey home there was a massive pile-up on the motorway and the coach remained stationary for over an hour - such fun!
As to the production, what can I say? The four people who inhabit it are all more or less total shits of the first water! So why would we waste three and a bit hours of our precious lives watching them tear strips off each other? Well, I suppose it is for much the same reason that some people go to watch dog fights, they just love the blood! There is certainly plenty of emotional blood spilled in this play and I guess that there is some comfort for most of us that we can come out, wiping our brows and thanking God that we are not like them - er, we're not, are we? (Oh no, say it ain't so!) Even so it must be said that, although I missed the ending of this production, I already knew how it ended and it is quite brilliant, even if one senses that it is the domestic equivalent of one of those Christmas truces in WWI which brought a brief calm to a scene of murderous mayhem but which the participants knew would kick off again the next day.
Imelda Staunton was quite brilliant in the explosive role of Martha, as was Conleth Hill (no, me neither because he's an American actor!) as the equally vicious George. Imogen Poots played Honey and she was terrific as a young, somewhat dim woman so far out of her depth she was barely aware that she was drowning! Luke Treadaway played Nick very well but I'm not sure he had quite the physicality required. The set had the usual fault of most domestic sets in that the fireplace was over on stage right but all the chairs and the sofa faced the 'fourth wall', ie, the audience. This never looks right and the answer is to use the 'fourth wall' as the 'fireplace wall' just using a small grate with fireplace accoutrements around it which will not block the audience's view. (I am available as a set designer consultant should anyone in the West End or Broadway require my services!)
Albee's play is a master-piece, an all too true depiction of the almost murderous imperatives that lie beneath so many domestic tranquilities.
ADDITIONAL: Especially for my e-pal, 'The Big Henry', who in a comment elsewhere asked who played Martha to my George given that Liz Taylor was not available? The answer may be found here: