Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has opened at London's Harold Pinter Theatre to critical acclaim, with five star reviews for Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots.
Edward Albee's classic piece received five stars from The Guardian, Radio Times, Sunday Express, Financial Times, Evening Standard, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Stage, and four stars from The Observer, Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Times and The Arts Desk.
The Guardian's Michael Billington gave it five stars, describing it as, "one of those rare occasions when play, performance and production perfectly coalesce... A first-rate revival of an astonishing play... Imelda Staunton brilliantly embodies Edward Albee’s campus Medusa in the shape of Martha. Conleth Hill matches her every inch of the way as her seemingly ineffectual husband, George. Watching the two of them pummel each other senseless in a three-hour verbal slugfest may be exhausting but is ultimately uplifting and cathartic."
The Evening Standard's Henry Hitchings also gave Virginia Woolf five star, writing "This modern classic still feels lethal. As Hill and Staunton fathom the depths of their poisonous duet, the humour is merciless and the pain exquisite."
The Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish also gave five stars; "Staunton is on monstrously fine form [in] James Macdonald's superlative revival... Based on the simple premise of a late-night drinks party that comes to resemble a modern matrimonial equivalent to the flayed-alive horrors of Dante’s Inferno, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is the most wickedly entertaining, most viciously nasty, most incrementally harrowing play in the American canon. And I’ve never yet seen an account of it that ticks all those boxes with such pen-breaking vigour. After a sluggish start to the New Year, it’s as if the West End has been dragged out of hibernation by some blood-stained, howling predator."
With five stars Paul Taylor of The Independent called it "a brilliant night out... Imelda Staunton's performance as Martha – one of the greatest feats of acting I have witnessed – is immense."
With another five stars, The Stage's Mark Shenton called it "utterly heartbreaking... [this] ferocious and fearless production of Albee's great play is performed with stunning power... The special thrill of Macdonald's finely calibrated production is just how delicately the balance of power keeps shifting between each of them [and] Hill is in every way a match for Staunton in the ugly word and mind games that Martha and George use to sustain their poisonous relationship."
Claire Webb of Radio Times gave it five stars, saying "This revival will go down as one of the greats... Albee's black comedy still packs a blistering punch." She praised the cast; "Staunton is ferocious and heartbreaking [while] Hill is also wonderfully nuanced...Poots is hilarious while Treadaway also puts in a first-rate turn."
With five stars, Michael Arditti of the Sunday Express wrote, "Macdonald’s pitch-perfect production is not only the most affecting and intelligent but the most enjoyable evening in the West End... Staunton brilliantly captures both her vulgarity and her vulnerability. It is hard to imagine a cast that could be bettered. Treadaway and Poots are splendid. But it is the magnificent Hill’s raw pain and simmering resentment as George that provide the abiding image of the night."
With five stars, Sarah Hemming of the Financial Times called it "intoxicatingly good... Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill are superb... James Macdonald’s blistering production brings out Albee’s dismissal of American postwar optimism and hollow materialism and his sharp analysis of social game-playing."
The Observer's Susannah Clapp gave it four stars, writing "Prepare for a high-wire showdown in James Macdonald’s fine production of Albee’s caustic classic."
With four stars, Georgina Brown of the Daily Mail asked, "Who's afraid of Imelda Staunton? You might be after seeing her brilliance in masterpiece of marital mayhem."
The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin called it "a damn near faultless production", while Matt Wolf of the New York Times called it "ferocious [and] likely to be the talk of the town... This Virginia Woolf is by some measure the most searing London account of Albee’s 1962 theatrical landmark I have seen... beyond compare."
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? tickets are bookable until 27 May at the Harold Pinter Theatre.