Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? Not Lady Grantham

Elizabeth McGovern and Dougray Scott in Edward Albee's play - Johan Persson

Elizabeth McGovern and Dougray Scott in Edward Albee’s play – Johan Persson

More than 60 years after Edward Albee first emerged from the mind and made the playwright’s name public on Broadway – on the screen with the double act that Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor signed on in 1966 – George and Martha remain the most famous in American theater. . warring couple.

This venison New England history professor and his acidic, status-conscious wife pose a powerful conundrum about alcohol-induced interdependence. They bite and slash like turtles, but they continue the mischief of kindergarten, as if their young guests, who come to a showdown with their late-night marital ferocity, are fed like vampires from their kinky biologist Nick and his dopey wife Honey.

Although the game belongs to its era, it has never gone out of style, and while it is resistant to interference, it often mutates as a result of the field it is in. Back in the West End, in the old basement studio at the Trafalgar Theatre, Matthew Kelly and Tracey Childs were dripping with the finer details of bile and suffering.

In Bath Theater Royal’s 120-seat Ustinov Studio, there is intimacy as well as a necessary disconnection as the seats rise sharply above the stage. The trick here is to allow enough theatricality to honor remorse, yet allow enough normalcy to make us feel like we’re in the same room as the quartet – and that’s something Lindsay Posner’s painstaking (over three hours) production achieves. aplomb.

The combined experience of Elizabeth McGovern and Dougray Scott blends presence and nuance. Named after Downton Abbey, where she played Lady Grantham, McGovern, born to the family, snuggled up on a sofa or jumped around with frustrated vigor, showing teeth and barking commands. With his sweater, glasses, and scarred air, Scott paints a duller, more pathetic figure, but also deals with malice, parodying Honey’s giggles and laughing hollowly. The mood is like a deflated party balloon as the duo picks up pieces of a shared narrative about their son that has been trashed.

It’s their marathon night, but Gina Bramhill also struggles admirably with the conceited, archetypally cool Honey. As Nick, Charles Aitken falls a few pounds behind Albee’s “well put together” trait, but blooms gloriously in the mid-evening mating dance of mind-blowing peacocks. Considering that the game was played in the West End only five years ago, a London transfer might not be quite feasible. Take it to Bath then.

until 11 February. Tickets: 01225 448844; theaterroyal.org.uk

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