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Kid gloves come off for this gruff taboo shocker


The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

Theatre Royal, Haymarket


If you can’t imagine ever fancying someone with a goatee, put yourself in the position of Sophie Okonedo’s poor Stevie. After decades of enviably perfect marriage to Damian Lewis’s top architect Martin, she finds that her husband has been having an affair with a goat.

It’s funny, although late American writer Edward Albee’s 2000 award-winning shocker is no comedy. Rather it takes the great taboo of bestiality and chucks it at a life of wealth and elegance like a hand grenade.

Ian Rickson’s production is like watching the explosion in slow-motion. The destructive force of Martin’s behaviour is so great that the art-adorned living-room walls of the couple’s brownstone townhouse cleave apart.

As Stevie, Hotel Rwanda star Okonedo has the hardest job in the play. How does a sane person respond to the news that the love of her life, and father to her sensitive teenage son, erm, Billy (a terrific Archie Madekwe in the role that put Eddie Redmayne on the map in 2004) has fallen head over hooves for a member of the livestock community?

Okonedo suspends her Stevie in a state between loving and livid, combining incredulous calm with eruptions of violence.

Billions and Homeland A-lister Lewis does a fine job transmitting an unhinged mind.

The urbane charm of his Martin is plagued with fractured thoughts expressed in half-completed sentences. Yet it’s not only his bestial act that leaves us speechless, it is also his plea that goat love be understood.

Curry anyone?