(seen at the afternoon performance on 11th March 2017).
They should probably start engraving the names of this cast on the 2017/18
season Olivier Awards right now. Conleth Hill (George) is unlikely to be
equalled as a patriarch whose intentions to wrong-foot and mislead others is
simply the externalisation of his own mental survival. Matching him, wife Imelda
Staunton (Martha) has a vicious streak whose greatest victim is herself. Luke
Treadaway (Nick) reveals naivety and burgeoning sophistication as a young
husband, while Imogen Poots (Honey) must not be underestimated. Her shrinking
performance has a technical brilliance that is artfully concealed and is
seemingly un-noticed... yet is the barometer of the entire piece.
On the surface, this is a pair of dinosaurs ripping great chunks from each
other. Maybe the younger couple are their earlier selves, maybe they represent
an alternative path, or a future destined never to happen. Author Albee keeps us
guessing. What we do find out is heart-rendering and oddly defiant, too.
Director James Macdonald goes for a build over three engrossingly fast-moving
hours. We are not watching actors, for he has us simply stand one side of the
room as domestic drama plays out. Tom Pye gives us any American room for it,
with attention to detail down to photographs. Oddly, no backdrop outside the
door, but Charles Balfour's lighting and Adam Cork's atmospheric background
music makes up for it. Oh, and a word for Carole Hancock too, for the hair and
make-up connecting each well-known actor more deeply to their characters. Add
Bret Yount's skill in fight-direction and Imogen Knight for a truly horrible (in
a good way) pair of dance sequences, and this is drama of the highest quality.
If you can get a ticket, do so. Not only does the play still work it's black
magic after all these years, but the cast conjure up a spirit that will play
with your soul for days to come.