Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Harold Pinter, review: ‘Imelda Staunton brings stamina and remarkable range’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 March 2017

Imelda Staunton as Martha. Picture: Johan Persson

Imelda Staunton as Martha. Picture: Johan Persson


Edward Albee’s 1962 marital warfare masterpiece has been magnificently revived by James Macdonald, exchanging blousy melodrama for taut, psychologically plausible theatre

Theatregoers might be afraid of Imelda Staunton, given the instigation of a snack ban at her behest, but the power of this scorching production alone should convince audiences not to break its spell with chomping.

Edward Albee’s 1962 marital warfare masterpiece has been magnificently revived by James Macdonald, exchanging blousy melodrama for taut, psychologically plausible theatre – the black comedy made much funnier and horror more affecting by locating the recognisable humanity.

Staunton, an indelible Momma Rose, brings similar stamina and remarkable range to Martha – daughter of the president of an East Coast college, wife of a professor doomed to disappoint by comparison.

She’s a prizefighter, compact and exacting in her verbal jabs, and exhibits a predator’s cunning as she circles their unsuspecting guests: young professor Nick and wife Honey.

In Macdonald’s fascinating reading, Martha and George wound one another, but have also, on some warped level, found their perfect partner. Conleth Hill is a superb complement to Staunton, hangdog and shuffling, ironic delivery dry as the Sahara. It makes the tragic escalation of their nasty but functional rituals genuinely heart-wrenching.

As the cocky science professor – the ruthless future to history professor George’s past – Luke Treadaway peels away the façade of this golden boy, whose marriage, like his hosts’, is already infused with regret, caught between bracing truth and corrosive illusion. Imogen Poots makes an impressive stage debut as Honey, her gradually crushed spirit, disillusionment and binge-drinking suggesting a Martha in the making.

Tom Pye’s subterranean design is an effective battleground, particularly in the hellish final reckoning. Martha’s primal howl will stay with me, but so, too, will the almost unbearably intimate desolation: rattling ice in the glass held by a silently weeping Staunton. Extraordinary theatre.

Rating 5/5 stars


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Islington Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Islington Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Islington Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Islington Entertainment Stories

Lean but fruitful third record from the leftfield pop merchants.

As its name suggests, Flour and Grape specialises in freshly-made pasta and wine.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Emma Bartholomew joins in with one of Kate Sheridan’s monthly leather bag making classes, held in her Lower Clapton shop

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Karla Knowles’ Italian roots have influenced the new winter menu at Wolf in Stoke Newington High Street, discovers Emma Bartholomew


“With teenagers there’s a lot of banter, and you can really establish a relationship. You have to trust teenagers to make their own decisions.”

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now