REVIEW – The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? – Traverse Theatre


The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Even if Sylvia in Edward Albee’s play was a ‘normal’ female, the sharp-edged characterisation and deliciously playful dialogue would see the piece stand on its own hind feet as a tragicomic look at what lies simmering under the surface of middle-class suburban life.

As it is however, the script busts as many taboos as the crockery Stevie (Sian Thomas) smashes during her powerfully raw and utterly convincing arguments with her husband Martin (John Ramm). In this production – the Scottish premiere of Albee’s 2002 play – director Dominic Hill ensures The Traverse maintains its reputation as a venue for cutting-edge, challenging theatre, able to attract a cast at the height of their abilities.

When Martin confesses the full details of his extra-marital affair to best friend Ross (Paul Birchard), he sets the scene for an explosive chain of events, which Albee uses to unflinchingly dissect the liberal attitudes and values of modern life.

Ramm and Thomas are both excellent as the long-standing husband and wife, with a chemistry that constantly bubbles between them, whether in scenes of touching tenderness, intellectual sparring or in the midst of explosive argument.

Kyle McPhail also impresses as the couple’s gay teenage son Billy, displaying a convincing mix of outrage and sexual confusion as he is faced with his father’s misdemeanours. As the relationships on stage split apart and break, all four of the cast – together with an impressive and well-realised set and lighting design – create a performance that grips throughout.

With a strong sense of the absurd and some tremendously witty dialogue and comic timing, The Goat or Who is Sylvia? is a powerful and at times hilarious production. If you’re uncomfortable with having your sexual taboos thrust in front of your face, you may find it hard to stomach; if however you’re keen to witness a superbly-acted piece which is unafraid to peel the lid off some of today’s views on what is acceptable, you’re in for a treat.

Highly recommended.

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? runs at the Traverse Theatre until 8 May. Full details are on the Traverse website.

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