WORTH A LOOK?: **
WHERE: Theatre Royal Haymarket
WHEN: 24/3, runs to 27/5
Click-thump. The audience at this first preview starts leaving and tipping up their chairs, in very small, but regular, trickles around the middle of act two.
- Read on for reasons including why it’s lucky this three-act play has no interval
The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? won a Tony for author Edward Albee as Best New Play in 2002 and a two-minute stroll from the Theatre Royal Haymarket, his revival of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, starring the formidable Imelda Staunton, is still packing an emotional punch to the gut.
Openly gay Albee died in September aged 88 and tasted early success with Virginia Woolf, which also won five Oscars. The Goat, unfortunately, has the feel of an author trying to reclaim former glories by trying to shock his audience as much as possible at the expense of an engaging story.
We meet Martin and Stevie Gray, a couple who we assume to be happily married, until the husband confides in his best friend he is having an affair – with a goat.
We loved Damian Lewis in Homeland as the US marine and prisoner of war who is turned by al-Queda. Here he has to perform a similar task of persuading us to believe in his presumed faithful 50-year-old architect who has reached a career pinnacle which is threatened by something unacceptable coming to light in his personal life.
It’s a fascinating acting challenge and Lewis is ultimately game, up for it and engaging but the sound of those tipping seats mean this play’s subject matter is always going to be tough for any audience to handle.
We’re here because we’re big fans of Sophie Okonedo, who plays his wronged wife, and while she gives us a masterclass in smashing the couple’s possessions, we’d prefer to see her in something a little less bleak. There’s no doubting that she’s giving us her all however.
Archie Madekwe completes a trio of fine central performances as the couple’s gay teenage son and he is the instigator of some of the most difficult scenes in the final act of which we shall go into no more detail here other than they touch on both incest and paedophilia.
We wouldn’t recommend The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? but we do admire both Lewis and Okonedo for throwing themselves so selflessly into such a difficult work.
Those intrigued by Albee would probably do better to click-thump thought of buying seats at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and join the queues outside the Harold Pinter Theatre instead.