GRUSOMHETENS TEATER presents
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? by Edward Albee
“Reality is the toughest of all illusions.”
“Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? premiered at Grusomhetens Teater on the 25th of October 2018.
The performance received good reviews, and Vårt Land highlighted Hanne Dieserud as the year’s acting achievement for the role of Martha.
After years of physical theatre, here comes a psychological thriller – the 3-hour-long, world-famous play by American playwright, Edward Albee. Perhaps many have a fresh memory of last year’s production at Oslo Nye Teater with Linn Skåber and Sven Nordin in the lead roles as the middle-aged couple Martha and George. Most people probably still associate Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Mike Nichols’ 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Yes, we have something to strive for.
The story is set on an American university campus in the mid-60s, more specifically, the couple George and Martha’s home, – she is the daughter of the university’s director, – he is a professor at the Department of History. At her father’s welcome party for new employees, Martha has invited a young teacher and his wife for after party drinks. A long night’s journey towards day takes place, and as the humid hours progress, a pain of life is expressed in the form of a game between truth and lies.
Of more than two dozen plays by Edward Albee, none has received as much success as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Today it is a classic. The very first performance took place on October 13, 1962 at the Billy Rose Theater in New York. Critic Clive Barnes wrote a reflection on the play in 1976: “Perhaps the play received too much praise at the time – it really did – and Mr. Albee has written better plays later. But he has never reached the same realistic savagery as in this play.” In Norway the same year, Stein Winge presented the iconic play at the National Stage in Bergen with Joachim Calmeyer and Elsa Lystad in the lead roles. John-Kristian Alsaker was the set designer, and also filled that role in Grusomheten’s production.
The question for some faithful audience members before the curtain goes up is perhaps whether Grusomheten, which particularly focuses on the physical, will gain a foothold on such a dialogue-driven play. The action is serious enough, so that the “brutality” concept by the French theatre philosopher, Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), will likely be justified, regardless of form. However, theatre is theatre, one should not be controlled by form and references to previous work. What matters is to be present now.
Lars Øyno – October 2018.
Glitrende Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
We are [presented with a] peephole theatre, where we feel almost invited into Martha and George’s very bourgeois home, tastefully created by set designer John-Kristian Alsaker and beautifully lit by Rolf C. Egseth. Here, the 1960s are carefully recreated, with everything from enamelled ice cube containers to a painting on the wall that could have been signed by Jackson Pollock. Costumes and hairstyles also say 60s, and in total, the artistic team has managed to create an eminent illusion of the time the play was written in. And precisely this illusion, which is so good that it feels real, must have the same effect on the audience that the lies and stories have on Martha and George. It is languorous, almost seductive. And after more than three hours in the same room as the four characters, they feel like old acquaintances. The play from the 60s also gives associations to the Television Theatre, something that especially Dieserud’s and Steinsland’s somewhat mannered playing style builds on. And thus, we are reminded that this is theatre and illusion, at the same time as it is all experienced as close and real.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is by no means a typical production of Grusomhetens. But it is very good theatre. If you have not been to the Grusomhetens Teater before, I recommend that you take the trip this autumn.
Inger Marie Kjølstadmyr, Dagsavisen, read the full review
- Over three hours of advanced marital strife added to large doses of brown liquor, never goes wrong
- This is the first time the undersigned has experienced the full text of Albee. It’s strange the piece is not set up more often like this. You experience the sky-high level of language and dialogues in a different way when no one has cut into the well-thought-out play
- Well spent time
- Dice: 5
Ole Jacob Hoel, Adresseavisen, Trondheim
Grusomhetens Teater fills the marital sequel, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with deep love and new theatrical layers. It’s well done.
Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? is thus no parade of actor performances. And you know what? It’s a little delicious, because something else is developing underneath…
Hanne Dieserud as Martha is naturally full, but has steel control over her movements. It’s physical actor meets lyric theatre, and it’s very nice to watch..
Per Christian Selmer-Anderssen, Aftenposten, read the full review
Admittedly, there is an underlying political message that is not difficult to find, if one absolutely must. The escalation in the eventually declared war between the spouses contains some of the same dynamics as some politicians’ shameless handling truth and lies, and the hateful rhetoric in social media commentary.
But are not such conclusions almost always the result of post-rationalisation? I doubt that Lars Øyno has thought “fake news” and then set out in search of a dramatic work that can say something about it. The topicality, and the quality and the power, in this still lies in the artistic alternative of what Grusomheten represents, this time by going to the opposite of the extreme they are already at, and doing it better than everyone else.
Chris Eriksen, Scenekunst.no, read the full review
Miguel Emilio Dobrodenko Steinsland plays George with delightfully studied 60’s diction as well as impressive stamina and timing. Hanne Dieserud plays an excellent role as the razor-sharp and charming, but mentally impoverished Martha.
Kirsti Sørlie Hansen as Honey and Carl Filip Amundsen as Nick make multifaceted interpretations of the roles and I can never imagine that The Albee Estate could find anything to complain about in the role assignment.
This is well-built, traditional theatre. Rarely can the reactionary be innovative. The answer to the question I asked in the introduction is that Øyno wants to add as little as possible, he has chosen to believe that the text and the shooters are good enough to deliver the devilishness, suffering and passion that lies there with Albee.
The play begs for Ibsen’s life lie and Strindberg’s devilry. It is as if the Dance of Death meets Hedda Gabler, sprinkled with brown liquor, and it should be a good starting point for a cruel night at Grusomhetens.
Frøydis Århus, Klassekampen, read the full review
Through George’s painstaking speech, it is as if the details of Edward Albee’s ingenious text become even clearer. We can formally slam the evil in the reply, a dialogue so sharp that it feels dangerous.
In the role of Martha, Hanne Dieserud has both the intelligent, the bitter and the naughty in her, but in the middle of this mix we also sense a soreness. Through her ever-growing desperation, it not only feels like we are witnessing a chamber game, but we are also inside a torture chamber. In the verbal line of fire between the couple, the young couple stands, credibly and finely tuned played by Carl Filip Amundsen Stav and Kirsti Sørlie Hansen. Increasingly affected by the drinks served to them, where the mixed water is a mix of swearing, deception, emotional guilt, drunkenness and fear for those close to you.
For a number of years, the Grusomhetens Teater has marked its distance from institutional theatre, precisely by rejecting words and intellect in favour of a more messy, physical and intuitive approach to the theatre. The fact that John-Kristian Alsaker – perhaps Norway’s foremost set designer for dressing realistic scenes – is present, the set design creates an even more unusual atmosphere.
Kjersti Juul, Vårt Land, read the full review
All the actors play regularly for Grusomhetens Teater, and it’s great to see them in a traditional performance. They shine in their role interpretations and really show off their acting skills. But even though this is not the physical form we are used to seeing in the theatre, both director and actors play on their strong skills. The physical expression is effortless and believable, and the diction is immaculate. This is by no means an easy feat. Throughout the play, they play both drunk, angry and hysterical – conditions that are challenging to play realistically. I have been impressed by Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? on the Norwegian stage before, but this is without a doubt the best production so far!
This is theatre in a class of its own. A fantastic play that is exalted by excellent direction and acting work. This is suitable for theatre lovers of all ages, so my warmest recommendations to Grusomhetens Teater and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Stine Sørensen,Teaterungdom, read the review
Thank you very much – Grusomhetens Teater and Lars – for a very powerful, heartbreaking and – I just have to say – fun 4 hour experience. The capital would – without the Grusomheten – be missing, a vital dimension, in your earthly grounding and in its spiritual connection.
Knut Erik Tveit
PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER; A MUST SEE! Grusomheten delivered a successfully intense performance at a high artistic level of Edward Albee’s masterpiece and by far the most complex drama tonight. “The after party” is staged as usual with a sure hand by Lars Øyno in a dressy, simple scenography by John-Kristian Alsaker. And the living room is populated by actors who could hardly have been more typecast for the roles; Hanne Dieserud as the elegant “monster” Martha and Miguel E.D. Stensland as the academic softy Georgie, both equally euphoric. And guests Nick and Honey; Carl Filip Amundsen Stav and Kirsti Sørlie Hansen, are so subdued in their play in contrast to the hosts, but with a crescendo that suggests the possibility that their young marriage may end in the same cruel disaster as the marriage of the generation before them. Something I think was Albee’s more or less conscious intention with the drama; that history repeats itself imperceptibly also in the name of love. In the program for the production, reference is made in English to Plato’s words: “Love is a demon, a creature midway between the eternally happy gods and mortal men.”
Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? is one of the best things I’ve seen in my entire life. The combination of the theatrical and the realistic made the performance unique in a good way. Incredibly well done! An absolutely fantastic performance that can be highly recommended!
Elev fra Hartvig Nissens skole
Martha: Hanne Dieserud
George: Miguel Emilio Dobrodenka Steinsland
Honey: Kirsti Sørlie Hansen
Nick: Carl Filip Amundsen Stav
Rolf Christian Egseth
Gjøril Bjercke Sæther
Live Marianne Loven
Foto og video
Svein Sturla Hungnes