27 March 2017

Drama

Conleth Hill and Imelda Staunton as George and Martha
Four days in London. Sorry I was out of action in blogging terms for I just couldn't get on with my daughter's Apple laptop. Anyway, suffice to say I am back in Yorkshire with various blogging ideas I could develop in order to bore you to death. Be warned.

For this post, I am just going to report back on "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woof?" by Edward Albee. It is currently being staged at The Harold Pinter Theatre off Leicester Square. It's a play I studied and wrote about when I was eighteen years old but I hadn't seen a live performance of it until Thursday night. It was definitely worth waiting for this production. I had a great seat in the second row of the stalls. 

There are only four characters in the play - Nick, Honey, George and Martha. The latter role was played by Imelda Staunton. It would be easy to summarise the plot but you can find such  information elsewhere. Let me just say that it is a late night/early morning drama in which tongues are loosened as the four characters confront notions of truth and illusion. It is both intense and powerful.

At the end of the show, I was out of my seat applauding the faultless performance I had just enjoyed. Imelda Stanton and Conleth Hill (George) had both been brilliant, so engaged with their parts, appreciating the significance of every word they voiced. I got lost in the play, my inner thoughts reduced to naught. Bravo!

...But something else was happening. Just two seats further down Row B but also involving a group of theatregoers in Row C. Next to me in Row B were four men in the late thirties or early forties. As soon as the curtain went down for the interval an unholy row broke out between one of the men and the Row C people. 

It seemed that in the first half of the show some annoyance had been caused. I had been totally unaware of this but  one of the men was up out of his seat, bending his head towards the occupants of Row C, raising his voice and threatening them with physical violence. Reasonable protests emerged from Row C but they only added fuel to the angry man's fire. He sounded Russian or Eastern European. At one point he spat at two of the Row C people. It was rather shocking.

I deduced that the people in Row C had tried to shush this man during Act One. Apparently he had coughed a few times but I never heard this. I certainly wasn't aware of it. Even as the curtain went up for Act Two the angry man was still being loud and threatening but he went quiet as the show continued.

There was a short curtain break to alter the set between Acts Two and Three and again the nasty public row fired up. As I joined in the standing ovation after the final curtain it all kicked off once again but fortunately, as the audience departed, the Row C people sensibly went for a different exit, avoiding further confrontation. 

All of this was really quite bizarre. Luckily it didn't spoil my experience. It was almost as if the dramatic soul searching up on stage had spilt out into the audience. I was so glad that that angry man hadn't been venting his flame on me. I would probably have lamped him, yelling "Who's Afraid of Yorkshire Pudding?" before my inevitable arrest.

18 comments:

  1. To spit at and upon another is a despicable, disgusting act. Such an act is shocking.

    There are far too many angry people around these days. Some seem unable to control themselves.

    There's Method Acting...and then there's Method Watching by the sounds of it. Mr. Accented-Fellow was emulating George and Martha far too well!

    I've never seen a live production of the play,"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", but I did see the movie starring Taylor, Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis way back in the late Sixties...and I loved it. It's a very powerful play/movie.

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    1. I have also seen the Taylor/Burton film version but last Thursday's live performance was so much better, so much more gripping.

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  2. Uncontrolled ugly outbursts can really spoil things for an audience. You can tell when actors are on their game.

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    1. "On their game" - that's a good way of putting it Red.

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  3. Whoa, that was a bit close for comfort, yes?

    I don't know if you'll see it, but I left a comment on your last post to warn you off cycling as knee exercise ...

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    1. Okay. Thanks for that Doctor Jenny. I will look back.

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  4. I've neither read nor ever watched the play, so I am not even really familiar with the plot. Imelda Staunton certainly knows her stuff; I have never come across her in a movie or on TV and found her less than great.

    Now I am wondering - could the Row B and Row C people be a group of actors themselves, specialised in impromptu acting? Putting on an "angry" show, provoking people who are not involved to react to their anger, to become involved?

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    1. Your idea about a play within a play down in Rows B and C is interesting. I have certainly seen such devices in theatre before but on this occasion - no. The hubbub of voices in the interval meant that only those very close by were aware of what was happening.

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  5. I'm so glad you weren't involved in the altercation YP...it sounds nasty, and the sort of thing that there is too much of these days. I loved the Burton/Taylor film and would like to see this production too...I will investigate tickets. Hope you had a great weekend seeing your young'uns.

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    1. I was very happy to be in Row B right at the front. This is drama at its best in my humble opinion.

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  6. You must have been very absorbed YP. I've never seen the play performed live either. Which, on reflection, rather surprises me.

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    1. I don't think it comes round very often. For example I cannot recall the play appearing in Sheffield during the last forty years.

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  7. Wow! What is wrong with people! Like you said, it's almost like some of the stage drama leaked out into the crowd.

    I've never seen a live version of this, but I've seen the movie with Liz Taylor -- one of her better performances.

    You and I are having a one-degree-of-separation moment, here, as Imelda Staunton lives on my street!

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    1. If you bump into Imelda, tell her I loved her performance. Every utterance, every entrance, every gesture. It was as if she wasn't Imelda Staunton any more. She really was Martha as Albee intended her to be. Pure brilliance!

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  8. Bizarre sounds a good description of what happened afterwards!
    Imelda Staunton is the most superb actress - up there with the best of them. She gives a faultless performance every time.
    I remember seeing the film with Burton/Taylor, so can imagine that a live performance, well acted, would draw you into the drama.

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    1. I saw Imelda Staunton in "Vera Drake" and of course witnessed some of her TV roles but to see her on stage in the flesh was another thing entirely. As you say - up there with the best of them.

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  9. Drama on and off the stage. Hope the unpleasantness didn't spoil your evening.

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    1. Fortunately I was just a bystander so it didn't really get to me too much.

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