The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (4 stars)

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Award-winning architect Martin (John Ramm) has been married to Stevie (Sian Thomas) for over 20 years. Unlike the majority of their well-heeled friends the couple have remained passionately in love, sexually exclusive, and even appear to be adjusting magnanimously to their son’s homosexuality. Suddenly their comfortable world and liberal attitudes are thrown into flux when it emerges that Martin has fallen in love with a goat named Sylvia.

Typically, Albee does not portray Martin’s infatuation as some absurd, cartoonish crush. The shock of Martin’s revelation is that, while extreme and grotesque, it is dealt with naturalistically, his discovery of Sylvia and their ensuing full-blown sexual relationship described in graphic detail.

While Dominic Hill’s production is laugh-out-loud funny throughout the play asks some taxing questions about the nature of personal morality, societal boundaries, and even goes so far as to cast doubt on the reciprocal nature of love. While the premise is not without its problems (is Albee, a gay man, really asking us to equivocate between homosexuality and bestiality?) the furious dispute between the leads as their marriage (and well-appointed front room) is ripped apart, charges along with an exhilarating urgency thanks to the playwright’s sparkling loaded dialogue and the fiery performances. The two leads are terrific, with Thomas giving a real tour-de-force as the wronged wife and lifting Stevie’s terror and grief well beyond the merely comic.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 May

The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?

Marital problems and unconventional desires surface in one of Edward Albee's more recent plays.

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