Dublin Theatre Festival: Everything’s Fine With Virginia Woolf

Review by Kevin Worrall

Turns out Virginia Woolf might not be so fine after all.

Having enjoyed a smash-hit run on the other side of Atlantic, ‘Everything’s Fine with Virginia Woolf’ has already been tried and tested by New York audiences, meaning it has already built up a fierce level of interest from Irish theatre lovers.

Opening the door on its first night in the O’Reilly Theatre, actor Vin Knight (George) utters the sensational line ‘What a dump!’ The delivery immediately lands a hearty laugh from the audience, appreciating the not-so-subtle reference to the 1962 show, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’. It’s a small yet effective detail, which informs everyone that this isn’t going to be a straightforward pisstake of the original production.

Annie McNamara is the star of the show, bringing the campy and erratic Martha to life. Her vivacious stage presence and wig tossing antics would have received a rapturous ‘Yas Queen’ had the play been situated in a gay bar. Wrong crowd, right time.

The addition of April Matthis and Gavin Price onstage feels a bit hasty at first – we’d only just got comfortable in the world of Martha and George. Yet the pair’s interpretation of their character is just as fun and delicious.

Matthis in particular bring forward the pathetic and tragically sweet nature of Honey, yet with a modern twist. She’s ballsier and at the end, storms off set, slamming the door in a nod to Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’. Go Honey!

The play launches forward, creating a meandering narrative that ducks and dives, steps backwards and upwards, sideways and downwards. It’s almost as if the play focuses in on what happens to a character when the onlooker isn’t watching.

Dissecting the pressures of being a woman in the theatre, and the importance of making a good protagonist, the show explores the treatment of the canon in a stunningly hilarious manner.

In doing so it uncovers the falseness of life.

The makeshift set (design by Louisa Thompson) leaves onlookers with an impending set of dread as they watch it quiver and shake every time someone touches the backdrop. McNamara’s mic-pack at one point crackles and pop interrupting her speech.

It almost comes as a relief when the whole thing comes crashing down and the story shifts its attention to George’s journey to the gates of Hell.

Enter Lindsay Hockaday, dressed up in a Devil’s costume that would normally be reserved for a child on Halloween. She points out all of the falsities of life and how humans strive to find meaning in the palest of metaphors.

The descend to Hell is a pure visual treat. Complete with flashing red lights and strobbing effects (lighting by Ryan Seeling), it manages to become the most balanced and stable part of the play.

‘Everything’s Fine’ truly pokes fun at the canon of theatre, mocking everything we hold near and dear to our hearts.

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