Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – the play
We were at the Manchester Royal Exchange yesterday to watch George and Martha strip each other of the individual and collective illusions embedded in the long night of their twenty-three-year-old marriage.
We knew it was a good play, but this production also has a great cast. Barbara Marten is wonderful as Martha, swinging wildly, like a prize-fighter, at her targets. Philip Bretherton’s browbeaten George is no less violent, though often appears to bring a kind of reason into the fray. They are supported by Michael Begley as Nick, the bewildered biologist and Joanne Froggatt, an actress who brings an unexpected sense of comic timing to the role of Honey.
In the final act of the play, George asks: “Truth and illusion. Who knows the difference?”
He then proceeds to ‘kill off’ the imaginary son they have constructed to support their relationship and their individual lives.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a play from the Theatre of the Absurd and is packed with metaphor and literary allusion. Ultimately, it is a play about the death of God. The constructed ‘son’ of George and Martha’s marriage being analogous with the Son of God. This sacrificial figure, once disposed of, gives rise to one of the the central questions of the modern condition: Can we live without illusion?
If you’re anywhere near Manchester during the next couple of days, the last of the run of this wonderful production, do go see it. There are some seats left.