Martin has it all - a beautiful wife, a loving gay son and a successful career. The family is the picture of liberal respectability. That is until Martin falls in love with a goat. A goat named Sylvia. What follows is one man’s downfall as he crosses a line that even liberal society can’t stomach. It’s painful, funny and tragic.
Damian Lewis plays Martin with Sophie Okonedo as his wife Stevie. Lewis perfectly creates a man on the edge, vulnerable, confused and lost, all because of one alarming transgression. There’s something child-like about his confusion as everyone around him is falling apart over something which, to him, feels completely natural. Lewis gives a commanding, powerful and heart felt performance.
Sophie Okonedo runs a whole gauntlet of emotions. Despite a lack of chemistry with Lewis in the opening scene she embodies the pain, anguish and confusion of a woman unable to comprehend the enormity of her husband’s actions. Even in the darkest moments there is always humour and Okenedo has some killer one liners that will leave you chuckling away, mostly out of discomfort.
Archie Madekwe as their son Billy is a revelation. His moral and sexual confusion is heart breaking as he watches his family tear each other apart. He delivers a sophisticated performance as we watch him question his identity, equally as alone and lost as his parents. There is strong support from Jason Hughes as Ross, the family friend who is caught between a rock and a hard place when his oldest friend reveals his new found love.
There is much to admire from this excellent production, not least what a brilliant piece of writing it is. Edward Albee takes bestiality, one of society’s biggest taboos, and uses it to reveal all that is unpleasant and unsafe in our lives. It makes for unsettling viewing at times but it’s the exploration of these themes of repression and tolerance that make this production so gripping – and so timely.
The Goat Or Who Is Sylvia? Plays at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until June 24. For tickets click here.
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Words by Matthew Hyde
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