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You’ll need a helmet to see this Woolf pack fight

Review: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Harold Pinter Theatre

★★★★★

EVER been the guest of a couple who argue? From this seemingly sitcomish idea the late American writer Edward Albee created one of the funniest and most desolate plays of the last century.

First seen in 1962, the most famous version of this alcohol-fuelled descent into domestic barbarity is the film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Martha and George, the married couple whose cosy home in the campus of a New England university is a war zone.

Those who enter end up as casualties. The innocent bystanders are clean-cut couple Nick, a newbie college professor played by Luke Treadaway (Fortitude and co-star of A Street Cat Named Bob, alongside a ginger moggy) and his meek wife Honey, alias Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later and Jane Eyre).

The evening starts at 2am. It finishes at dawn by which time every humiliating detail about these four lives has been revealed by George and Martha’s toxic banter, like the raw flesh exposed by a whip.

Treadaway and Poots are terrific at capturing the slide from optimistic newlyweds to walking wounded. But it’s Conleth Hill (Game Of Thrones) as failed history lecturer George and the monumental Imelda Staunton as his scarily truthful wife that drive James Macdonald’s production.

Mutual love and hate between these two is expressed in brutal, witheringly witty brickbats.

And included in Martha’s armoury is a laugh that could emasculate a man at 500 paces — a ‘Ha!’ that is fired like a howitzer.

Take a helmet.