Martha (Imelda Staunton) and George (Conleth Hill) return from a university faculty party in the middle of the night and are swiftly followed by the young couple Nick (Luke Treadaway) and Honey (Imogen Poots) who they invited for a night cap. Nick just started teaching at the university where George has been working for many years. What appears at first as a nice gesture quickly devolves as Martha and George rope the younger couple into their own marital conflicts.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a sometimes exhausting play, but one I couldn’t look away from for quite a few reasons. It really blew me away.
The play hit me first and foremost on a deeply personal level. I never met my grandfather, but I imagine that my grandmother’s and his marriage was pretty much exactly like George and Martha’s marriage. At least when it was at its worst. That fact alone would have probably been enough to keep me glued to events, since it felt like getting a glimpse of my own family I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
But fortunately that’s not the only thing that speaks for the play, otherwise its appeal would have been very limited indeed. It’s a play that really digs into the psychology of its characters and uncovers the worst parts of them with a certain relish that feels intoxicating – meaning you get drawn into Martha and George’s marriage much like Nick and Honey. That’s not always a comfortable experience, but it’s a journey worth taking.
If I was an actress, I would love to play characters like Martha. It certainly felt like Imelda Staunton had fun. Her Martha is absolutely explosive and hypnotic. And I honestly never expected to see her develop any kind of sexual tension with Luke Treadaway, but HOT DAMN those two were simply on fire.
This production of the play was one of those theater experiences that I would watch again in a heartbeat. I should really check out the movie version.
Summarizing: Did not expect to be floored, but was.