Inveterate guzzlers beware: patrons are being actively discouraged from eating during this production of Edward Albee’s name-making marital-crisis drama of 1962, in order not to put off the actors or distract the audience.
Watching James Macdonald‘s superlative revival (marred only by the cattle-class lack of roaming space at the Harold Pinter theatre), however, you realise that this controversial move is actually a medical necessity. There’s every danger of mid-show scoffers either choking to death as they’re seized by convulsive laughter, or disgorging the contents of their viscerally churned-up stomachs.
“Best Sozzled Acting”: Imogen Poots in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Credit: Johan Persson.
Based on the simple premise of a late-night drinks party that comes to resemble a modern matrimonial equivalent to the flayed-alive horrors of Dante’s Inferno, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is the most wickedly entertaining, most viciously nasty, most incrementally harrowing play in the American canon. And I’ve never yet seen an account of it that ticks all those boxes with such pen-breaking vigour. After a sluggish start to the New Year, it’s as if the West End has been dragged out of hibernation by some blood-stained, howling predator.