The Goat or Who is Sylvia?, Theatre Royal Haymarket, review: ‘Lewis will have you totally hooked’

The Goat, Theatre Royal Haymarket. Picture: Johan Persson

The Goat, Theatre Royal Haymarket. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

Damien Lewis and Sophie Okonedo both shine in Edward Albee’s story about a man who falls in love with a goat

If we needed further evidence that Damian Lewis is one of his generation’s best actors, here it is. As compelling on stage as on screen, he delivers Edward Albee’s tightly penned dialogue about a man who falls in love with a goat, with utter conviction and deft comic timing.

Cast as 50-year-old Martin, a successful architect with a brief to design a gleaming city from the Iowa cornfields, the Tufnell Park actor is comfortable embracing this nerdy bespectacled verbally nit-picking liberal whose midlife crisis casts him beyond the social pale.

Sophie Okonedo as wounded and furious wife Stevie is more than a fair match for Lewis’ charisma. If his American accent is understandably pitch perfect, hers never slips as she rattles out Stevie’s bitter swipes and commands the stage, smashing up Rae Smith’s art-filled city apartment and confronting him with her primal pain.

When she promises: “You have broken me and I will break you,” you damn well believe it.


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Jason Hughes provides reliable support as hypocritical best friend Ross, appalled at Martin’s taboo-busting passion, while accepting routine marital infidelity.

Only the couple’s gay teen son Billy shows a glimmer of understanding about the arbitrary boundaries of sexual norms – although Archie Madekwe’s gangly adolescent is the weakest of the quartet in Ian Rickson’s empassioned revival of Albee’s tragicomedy which was first staged at The Almeida in 2004.

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It’s nigh on two hours of break-free entrenched family warfare in a single setting, but thanks to stellar performances and Albee’s masterful rat a tat dialogue your attention never flags. Despite its absurdity, Lewis’ solitary, bewildered, and reviled Martin trying to explain the “epiphany” of his love will have you totally hooked.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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