Edward Albee’s The Goat or Who is Sylvia? opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with a bang after a successful run on Broadway.
A perfect marriage. It’s not an idea or phrase you come across all that often, but this is exactly how Martin [Damian Lewis] and Stevie [Sophie Okonedo] would describe themselves. Fame in the palm of their hands; great sex; great conversation and an amazing son. Life appears to be full of bliss. That is until tragedy strikes – though this isn’t your normal conventional type of tragedy. Tragedy strikes here in the form of an affair… with a goat called Sylvia. (Yes, you read that correctly!)
The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? follows the lead-up and aftermath of the revelation of Martin’s affair with his new goat lover. How will this affect their perfect idyllic world that they’ve created? This provocative piece answers all, and so much more.
The cast is phenomenal. Period. The news that this is 1hr 50 straight through with no interval can be daunting upon first arrival, but that time flies by. Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo’s portrayal of Martin and Stevie house pure emotion dripping from every line spoken and kept everyone watching totally hooked. As ludicrous as this storyline sounds – falling in love with a goat after such a long marriage – it’s made believable. At points feeling almost voyeuristic; that this is a part of a couple’s life you shouldn’t be watching.
Jason Hughes plays Ross; Martin’s best friend and later arch nemesis. Being confided in with information and then passing it on to Stevie despite promises that he wouldn’t does leave a sour taste in the mouth; excellently illustrated by Hughes. Rounding out the four-person cast is Archie Madekwe playing Billy – Martin and Stevie’s gay son. This is a completely different portrayal to everyone else. Archie brilliantly characterises Billy as a highly emotional teenager. A stark contrast to the stoic almost unmovable personalities of his parents; a brilliant juxtaposition and wonderfully blended between this cast.
Rae Smith’s set design is a marvel; intricately detailed in it’s design. Depicting the inside of their home, we caught ourselves judging them before we’d even seen them based on their possessions; a feat not easily achieved. While the set doesn’t change throughout, it looks completely different by the end – though we won’t spoil how! Not only is Edward Albee’s writing seen as a tragedy, it also spills over into somewhat of a comedy. Brilliantly spinning the English language to comedic affect left us all chuckling, then immediately feeling bad for laughing. The language and adult themes within the piece however suggesting that this play may not suit everyone’s taste.
What more can be said that hasn’t already? This is a fantastic piece of theatre that has to be seen to be truly believed. The magnitude of the performance is something that can only really be appreciated in person. All round, we don’t have a bad word to say about it. Phenomenal performances from an outstanding cast; coupled with a beautifully architected stage and fantastically worded script makes this one of the best nights out at the theatre money can buy.