Winterfall Theatre presents a new Melbourne production of Edward Albee’s classic play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Having ventured out into a freezing Melbourne night where snow was falling thickly somewhere on the mountains it was strangely not going to be a night of escaping the cold. The restaurant we dined at before the show had a broken heating system, well we were pressed for time so we stayed. Then off we went to the Blackbox Theatre situated in the pristine Preshil campus in Kew the new home for Winterfall Theatre productions. Somehow the cold night matched the spirit of the play.
This neat 50 seater theatre was created by Lloyd Jones of La Mama, bringing a little of La Mama’s charm to the students of Preshil. In 2014 acclaimed independent theatre company Winterfall refurbished the theatre and staff and students now use the space during the term and Winterfall Theatre during the term breaks. A win-win for the school and the public.
A good number braved the cold to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and we weren’t disappointed, especially those who have read the play, but also for those whom this performance is their first introduction. Written by the great American playwright Edward Albee in1962 it is a timeless, ageless piece of literature that continues to shake emotions when re-interpreted either on the stage or on film.
Winterfall Theatre presents Albee’s play to a new generation and I thought an exact and vigorous interpretation was brought to the stage. Excellently Directed by Denis Moore, whom was nominated for a Green Room Best Actor award in 2012 and some of the best acting I have seen in live theatre to date managed to recapture so powerfully all the deep, dark, ferociousness of Albee’s characters. With the combination of dialog, body language, the staging, the very essence of the original play was brought to life right there in three parts, so accurately, so emotionally and unnervingly precise.
Albee’s two famous couples, George and Martha, Nick and Honey are back on stage. I could almost go as far as to say that it closely matched the extreme passion of the 1966 film adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The intensity was greatly felt in the interaction between Chris Connelly (as George) and Michele Williams (as Martha), two damaged and scarred souls fighting for the deepest of love now at breaking point, clinching to dreams that have passed and driven by the desperate despair of marital breakdown.
Equally convincing were Jordan Fraser-Trumble (as Nick) and Cassandra Magrath (as Honey), not one of the four ever showing a slip out of their character, they immersed themselves and became those individuals, perfectly intertwining. I have been told that Edward Albee, now 88 years of age, with each adaptation of his plays has to personally approve every single production. He evidently has been vocal about his distaste in even the slightest deviation from his strict stage directions. Hearing this I am not surprised and I am sure that the quality of this Winterfall Theatre production has met all his expectations.
I first read Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? over 34 years ago as part of my VCE curriculum, it had a powerful effect on me then, I re-read the play again this year and having gained life experience and maturity the effect was profound as was the Winterfall Theatre production. I recommend getting out into the cold to see what I believe to be a celebration of one of the greatest living playwright of our time.
Directed by Denis Moore
Performed by Chris Connelly, Michele Williams, Jordan Fraser-Trumble, Cassandra Magrath
Lighting Design by Rebecca Etchell
Set Design by Christina Logan-Bell
21st June to 10th July 2016