An Evening of Fun and Games with George and Martha

‘Brutal and Humorous. I think that covers it.’

‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ tells the story of George and Martha, married middle aged professors who upon returning from a university faculty party begin to torment and abuse each other all in the company of their two younger guests, Nick and Honey.  As the evening progresses and fuelled by a continuous consumption of alcohol the young couple become embroiled in George and Martha’s game of verbal abuse, and talk of their unseen sixteen year old son.

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With the Crescent’s upcoming production of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ it’s near difficult to not mention Warner Brothers movie adaptation of the original Broadway show Staring the spellbinding Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The great irony of this is they were originally considered miscast; at the time Burton himself saying Taylor was too young and too beautiful to play the part, though telling her that for this reason she must play the role for it could be her hamlet.  She agreed on the proviso that he play George. Taylor at the time was deemed the most beautiful woman in Hollywood having recently played Cleopatra,  so in order to prepare for the role of a fifty something, troubled, acrimonious and somewhat passive aggressive drunk, a then 33 year old Taylor gained 20lbs and sported a grey wig, heavy makeup, prosthetics and  padding all for the purpose of aging her. The result of this contributed to arguably the performance of a lifetime culminating in her deservingly being awarded the academy award for best actress. More so the entire cast received respected Oscar nominations for their roles with Sandy Dennis winning best supporting actress for her role of Honey.

Taylor later described this role as being her personal favourite.Viginia 3

With rehearsals for The Crescent’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf firmly underway the cast were kind enough to take some time out of their busy preparations to answer a few questions for the Crescent blog; discussing the ins and outs of the characters they are all playing and the joys of dancing on stage.

'What do I think about Honey? I think she is a lunatic!’

‘What do I think about Honey? I think she is a lunatic!’

Colin Judges – Director

Colin is a seasoned member of the Crescent, as a director and heavily involved in set design and construction. Most recently he directed the very well received production of The Glass Menagerie.

Why did you want to direct this play?

Honestly? it came up and I had just finished Glass Menagerie, which was a great experience. I had a bit of spare time over the summer, so I thought why not. I particularly enjoy working on American plays. Also, about 12 or 13 years ago Albee withdrew performance rights except for productions that he personally approved which prevented the Crescent performing it, until now

Have you ever been an Actor?

I have never been an Actor. I did have one line in ‘Amadeus’ at some performances but that was because they were short of a servant and asked John Bailey who was doing props and was an actor to do the part. It was a 13 night run and he asked me to sub for a couple of nights he could not do (which ended up as seven). He did not tell me about the line until half way through the first dress rehearsal by which time it was too late to get out of it. I was terrified and had to study the script every night before I went on but can remember the line to this day, more than 20 years later. That is my closest brush with treading the boards.

The show starts earlier than usual for the Studio show, why is that?

The show starts at 7pm and the there are two intervals. There is a lot of drinking going on during the show and we thought we would give the audience a chance to get plenty of their own drinks.

Has there been anything particularly challenging about the rehearsal process so far?

“Actually, no, I have a fantastic cast and crew, although I have challenged the props people a little. We had to find a gun that fires a little flag or something, not as easy as you might think. Also there is a huge amount of drinking going on and I am concerned the actors are going to need the toilet – another reason for two intervals. There are also some issue around breaking glass, but I think we have it covered”

What do think today’s audience will make of the show?

It’s a fantastic piece of writing, the themes are still relevant and the characters are extremely well defined. I think it is still shocking today, after all bullying transcends time and it will certainly get audiences talking. I am also hoping that this production leaves audiences feeling sympathetic for George and Martha, not that George is more cruel or vice versa”

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Andy Butterworth – George 

Andy has been a member of the Crescent for several years, he has been in many productions including, Macbeth, A Beautiful Thing, Dial M for Murder and Charlie’s Aunt.

What attracted you to this play?

“I had seen the film and really enjoyed it, I was very excited when I saw it was included in this season at The Crescent, and even more excited to be cast as George”

Are you concerned about being compared to Richard Burton?

“I don’t think you can approach a character worrying about someone else’s performances, no matter how famous. I am looking at George in my own way and bringing my own style to the show. I am hoping that George becomes a likeable character”

Tanya Coleman – Martha 

Tanya Coleman was a member of the Crescent 13 years ago. The day that she decided to browse the Crescent website for auditions was the day of the auditions for this show. Fate you might say…

What do you think about Martha?

“It’s hard not to love Martha, I think it’s a credit to Edward Albee that such a young male writer has written such an amazingly strong female lead. Especially in the early 60’s. Her relationship with George is quite confusing, they have a deep love for each other and yet they are in a constant battle and both give as good as they get. I have never experienced a relationship like this, so it’s very interesting to play one.”

If you could sum Martha up in three words what would they be?

There are no words to ‘sum’ up Martha

 What’s your favourite moment in the play?

“The dancing scene. It’s a fantastic scene and extremely fun to do”

If you could sum up the play in three word, what would they be?

“Brutal and Humorous. I know that’s only two, but I think that covers it.”

Jason Rivers – Nick 

 Jason is a new member to the Crescent and met Colin whilst doing Calendar girls with Colin’s wife at Oldbury Rep. Colin told him about the play and he decided to audition. Jason didn’t know the play until then.

What so you think of Nick and Honey’s relationship?

Nick seems to be very embarrassed about Honey, particularly as she gets increasingly drunk. It seems to be that it was simply the right thing to do to marry her. But he has a genuine passionate persona.

What is your favourite moment in the play?

My favourite part of the play is in the final act when George and Martha talk about their son and come out all guns blazing. There is so much dramatic tension built up bringing you to a catharsis which I think is just fantastic. I love how Nick changes and everything suddenly fits in to place, a real calm after the storm.

If you could sum up Nick in three words what would they be?

Intelligent, Passionate and Unpredictable

If you could sum up the play in three words, what would they be?

Dark, Devious & Mischievous

Laura Poyner – Honey          

Laura has been with the crescent for a while now and has appeared in several productions, most memorably as “Philia” in last years musical A funny thing Happened on the way to the Forum.

What first attracted you to this play?

“Well, Honey was pretty much the only part I could see myself playing this season”.

What do you think about Honey?

“I think she is a lunatic! She does appear to be very simple and she is definitely in her own little bubble, but underneath there is a lot going on. Honey doesn’t quite get Martha and George’s world and just wants to play.”

What is your favourite moment in the play?

Definitely the interpretive dance scene, drunk acting is great fun. Although, she does throw up a lot.

If you could sum up the play in three words, what would they be?

Love, Facade, Party.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf comes to the Crescent Theatre on Saturday 21st September to 28th September 2013.

Tickets priced £11 |Sunday Matinee only £6