The title sounds cheerful, like some variation of the nursery rhyme Who‘s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? But behind this apparent harmlessness lies the chaos of human relationships. Setting for Edward Albee‘s world-famous play is an apartment in which two married couples meet after a party. The hosts Martha and George have been clinging to their illusions for years and are waging an ongoing marital war with clear rules: make the other person feel smaller than he or she already does!

That evening, well past midnight, the young couple Nick and Honey visit. They are new in town – and apparently ready to adapt to the rules of the game: at first, they are only spectators of the marital contest, but soon are torn out of their role as bystanders, fully involved in the host couple’s fight and have to take a stand. In the process, the fragile foundations of their own relationship become increasingly clear.

Author Edward Albee succeeded in 1962 with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the mother of all martial wars and marriage dramas: full of wicked humour, razor-sharp dialogue and surprising twists. At its core, he was interested in revealing human illusions. With wistfulness and irony, he shows the image of humans who seem to have everything at their disposal for happiness and yet are all the more painfully alone. The sparks of acting that can be struck from this darkly glittering "play to the death" have not only been known since the legendary film version with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Albee‘s play is still a popular modern classic on stages today – the only question is, what is it that fascinates us so much about the glimpse into the human marital abyss? In Martha‘s words: "Party! Party!"
 

FOUR QUESTIONS FOR DIRECTOR GUY CLEMENS

Audiences know Guy Clemens as an actor from the Bochum productions Ashes to Ashes or Platform/Submission, among others, and most recently as the bullied, finally liberated oddball Minute in Mysteries after Knut Hamsun or in the title role of the novel adaptation The Great Gatsby. He first introduced himself as a director in 2021 with the production of the black-humoured drama The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh, which can still be seen at the Kammerspiele. Now he is preparing his second directorial venture at the Schauspielhaus Bochum.

What do you look for when you choose a play?

I'm interested in plays from our time - rather than great classics - and I make sure that the language has its own power. And I look for freedom for scenic imagination. Do you read plays differently as a director than as an actor? As an actor, I look at the path my own character takes through a play. As a director, I look at all the roles. And I look for moments that I don't yet know how to solve. That's what excites me. White spaces. Yes, even as an audience member I'm always looking for moments in the theatre that I can't immediately explain, even though they impress me.

What fascinates you about theatre in general?

I always find it great when the audience ends up talking less about the director or the actors or the set and more about themselves. That they think about what reminded them of their lives. And that, in the best case, they are moved or touched. What issues move you? The growing gap between rich and poor. I see conflict-ridden times ahead of us. And I think a lot about wokeness, about how we can be more alert for justice and equality, for example with regard to the position of women in our society. Of course, this also concerns my own behaviour. More tragedy or comedy? You can't have one without the other. If a performance has no humour, I find it hard to take.

As a director, I get the impression that you think very much from the actors' point of view. Was the change of position difficult for you?

I had to learn that I can no longer belong. As a director, I also have to decide for others. My view of acting has also changed. As an actor I like to take my time and develop something over weeks until it reaches its climax at the premiere, as a director it's the other way round: I have to push a lot at the beginning of rehearsals and let go towards the end.

How did your ensemble colleagues react to you as a director?

The biggest compliment was that they said at the end that they wanted to work with me again. Although, of course, not everything went smoothly. I hope it will be like riding a bike: The first time you have no idea how long and hard the hill is, the second time I already know better and I'm looking forward to it. And to the audience's reactions when we arrive!
 

(Interview: Vasco Boenisch)
 

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Sat.28.01.
premiere
  • Wer hat Angst vor Virginia Woolf?
  • by Edward Albee
  • from the English by Alissa and Martin Walser
  • Director: Guy Clemens
  • Premiere: 28.01.2023
Team: