Sunday, 22 May 2011

Adjudication of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

Highlights and my reflections from this morning’s detailed adjudication by Jane Carnwath of Theatre Windsor’s presentation of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
  • This was a gripping, well-realized production
  • Director Jeff Bastien's orchestration of the pacing, and the variety of the pacing, was quite beautiful; this had a jazz beat to it (inspired by some of his research into Edward Albee and his writing habits)
  • Audience cannot become comfortable watching this show, and they didn’t
  • Act titles set tone: Act 1 “Fun and Games” needed to be funny, needed to establish the ground rules; Act 2 “Walpurgisnacht” as the ante goes up and up; Act 3 “The Exorcism” requires ritual
  • Theatre is action: how one action triggers another action, be careful about abstractions that cannot be played; get beyond the analysis to the action—what does the character want?
  • Lots of marvellous detail
  • Lighting was a bit dim, particularly in the area around the bar; adapted from a much shallower stage, part of the problem was caused by the front-of-house safety lights, but some of it was directorial choice; unfortunately moments at the bar were lost because the actors couldn’t be seen
  • Niki Richardson, who played Martha, wore a wig; she did feel that it gave her a tangible, physical way to access the character; but the difficulty was that it made her look younger (as opposed to a character who wanted to look younger) and the bangs sometimes hid her face
  • Costume choices were excellent, but Martha’s dress read a bit “prom” rather than seductress, bra straps were visible
  • Spine of the play: Who is afraid to live without illusion? George’s actions are necessary to achieve that goal; driven by the intense love between these characters; the baggage turns it toxic
  • Moment-to-moment work was very clear and very well-shaped
  • Rhythm of the play is naturalistic
  • Martha had a wonderful physical aggressiveness
  • Chris Lanspeary, as George, kept finding fresh ways to approach familiar speeches; sometimes he would get upstaged, caused in part by the placement of the furniture
  • Sean Ireland, who played Nick, had to step into the role for this run; credited especially for his work during the “mounting her” sequence with George where he physically invades George’s space, a wonderful moment exerting power
  • Nick’s drunkenness was subtly, carefully plotted over the run of the show; evolved beautifully
  • Level problems for a significant sound cue, as it was hard to hear the music that George chose for the dancing
  • The challenge for any actor playing George is finding the vulnerability and pain; those are the qualities that “level the playing field” so it is conceivable that Martha could win
  • As a tactic, yelling is powerful because it allows for an emotional release, but balance it with quieter moments
  • Find the obstacle, find something to struggle against; if there is no struggle, if a character doesn’t care about what is happening in a given circumstance, then why should an audience care?
  • Daniela Piccinin played Honey; her vocal choice was initially jarring but became extremely effective over the course of the play (as one of my friend’s remarked to me: Can you imagine being married to that voice?); wonderful characterization
  • Terrific execution of the stage combat
  • Discussed the choice of how to approach the requiem: is it more powerful to read it or to say it?
  • Beautifully sustained physicality in the final moment

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