Virginia Woolf moving tribute to fondly-remembered theatre veteran

An October production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Old Mill Theatre is being staged to honour the memory of a much-loved member of the theatre community.

Garry Lawrence’s wife Beverley was originally cast in the play two years ago by Sue Hayward – but Hayward was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and died suddenly before the play reached the stage.

“At the time, I thought the play should have run as a dedication to Sue, who had done so much for local theatre,” Lawrence said.

“I read it several times to decide if it was my style and, each time, I discovered more and more subtlety in the intensity of the play’s action and decided to direct it.

“The Old Mill Theatre is a perfect venue and ideal place for this wonderful classic and also offers a great opportunity to remember Susan.”

Written by Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? involves two couples playing games at a party, launching savage verbal attacks against each other.

“The catalyst of alcohol and a late night after-party allow total unbridled honesty to be spoken with all its nails, and potential to hurt, left well and truly intact,” Lawrence, who also plays George, said.

“The contrast between the ages of the two couples provides an additional source of complexity in the interpretation of relationship challenges, fears, naivety, regrets, lost opportunity and misinterpretations in the never-ending game of life.”

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was named best play at the 1963 Tony Awards and 1962-63 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards.

It was also selected for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Drama but the award’s advisory board objected to the play’s then-controversial use of profanity and sexual themes and no prize was given.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton appeared in the 1966 film adaptation.

“The play has a profound intensity that has not been lost since it was first performed at Broadway’s Billy Rose Theatre in 1962,” Lawrence said.

“The key element of childbirth, children and all the manifestations of fulfillment and emptiness that impact on our lives are as true today as they ever were.

“It is difficult to conceive any greater sadness than family tragedies – we can all relate to this emotional phenomenon.

“The audience needs time out and relief from the depth of frustration and despair which sometimes envelops the theme.”

A theatre leader at school and learning tap dancing and jazz ballet in the 1970s, Lawrence introduced theatre nights to his footy club in the early ’80s and then stepped up to the stage at the Old Mill Theatre in The Sentimental Bloke.

He’s since gone on to play an abundance of lead and support roles and has directed Chinamen, Shirley Valentine, Breaker Morant and The Importance of Being Earnest.

“With Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? my task is to provide entertainment that allows for a story that sometimes makes the hairs on your neck stand on end but also has black humour to provide the folly,” Lawrence said.

“This ensures the interpretation of Edward Albee’s story rings true and leaves the audience enjoying the show – although if they feel a little drained at the end I won’t be disappointed.”

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? plays at 8pm, October 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 with a 2pm matinee October 14. Tickets are $20, $15 concession – book on 9367 8719 or or through our NEW online booking facility HERE. (PLEASE NOTE:  Opening night is now a week later than previously advertised).




A story on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has appeared in Weekend Notes. Click HERE to read it.