The Best of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – An Electrifying Performance at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne.

The critically acclaimed Red Stitch production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, featuring the stellar talents of Kat Stewart and directed by the award-winning Sarah Goodes opened at the Comedy Theatre on Wednesday, 3 July, to standing ovations from the enthralled audience.

Heralded as one of the most powerful and darkly humorous plays in the English language. This new production, which premiered in Melbourne last December, has been praised for its electrifying and pitch-perfect execution, with Kat Stewart’s performance standing out as a highlight.

This production is a significant milestone for Red Stitch, marking the first time in the company’s 23-year history that one of its plays has transitioned from its intimate 80-seat venue in St Kilda to a major commercial stage.

Originally debuting in 1962, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? struck a chord with its raw examination of societal norms and the disintegration of a seemingly respectable marriage. It then went on to become an award-winning film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It continues to attract leading performers, with past productions featuring the likes of Diana Rigg, Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, David Suchet, and Imelda Staunton.

The play, a jet-black comedy filled with razor-sharp dialogue and biting one-liners, features real-life theatre couple Kat Stewart and David Whiteley as Martha and George. Their tumultuous marriage is laid bare for their unsuspecting guests, played by Emily Goddard and Harvey Zielinski, revealing the painful compromises and humiliations of middle age and as a taste of the humiliations inevitable to come.

This performance was a masterful demonstration of creating suspense. Kat Stewart was venomous in her portrayal of Martha, delivering her lines with a biting intensity that was both captivating and unsettling. Her relentless verbal attacks on George, played by her real-life partner David Whitely, were uncomfortable to watch at times due to their raw authenticity. Whitely’s portrayal of George was equally impressive, characterized by a sharp cynicism and dry humour. His ability to match Martha’s jabs, creating a dynamic and tense interplay, was a highlight of the evening.

Emily Goddard and Harvey Zielinski, playing the roles of the unwitting guests Nick and Honey, provided much-needed lightness to the otherwise dark comedic performance. Their interactions added depth to the narrative and allowed the tension to ebb and flow naturally.

The set was simple yet effective in creating the lifeless living room of Martha and George, serving as the perfect backdrop for the unfolding drama. Music and sound were utilized to great effect, heightening the suspense and adding layers to the tense moments of the performance.

Don’t miss Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Comedy Theatre for an unforgettable theatrical experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This masterful production runs until 21 July. Tickets are available at virginiawoolf.com.au

Written by: Michael Kent

Images by: Eugene Hyland