ThereisBear! History Lesson (#1): ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’

In January ThereisBear! brought its second production to the stage in Druid Lane Theatre, Galway. To coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the original production, we staged an ambitious version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. We splashed out on set and, for 4 nights, turned the Druid auditorium into George and Martha’s home.

'Oh you're amused!' Ruth Darcy, Darragh O'Brien, Conor Quinlan and Muireann Ni Raghallaigh in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

‘Oh you’re amused!’
Ruth Darcy, Darragh O’Brien, Conor Quinlan and Muireann Ní Raghallaigh in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Mama Bear Hannah O’Reilly and Joe ‘Very Reliable Bear’ McEvoy combined to design and build our grandest set so far. The design was a beautiful art-deco interior replete with a working gramophone, stacks of George’s history books, plush leather couches, and a spectacular antique bar that lit up when it was opened. Alcohol being a catalyst for the events of the play, the bar served as a focal point for the action, but my favourite setpiece was a glorious historical map of 19th-Century France, which we chose when I decided Napoleonic France was George’s specialist subject.

'Snap! it went snap snap, not me it, the whole arrangement!' Tensions rise and tempers fray between George and Martha, sad sad sad.

‘Snap! it went snap snap, not me it, the whole arrangement!’
Tensions rise and tempers fray between George and Martha, sad sad sad.

Under the direction of fellow Bear in Arms Sam O’Fearraí, our humble cast developed four incredibly deep and rich characters. After months of extensive rehearsal with Sam the actors were so in tune with each other that scenes and moments in the play could turn on a dime and each run brought new surprises. Sam encouraged us to work off each other, feed off the audience, and play organically. In the event, each performance grew independently and turned out different from the last: on Wednesday it was a tragedy, on Friday it was a farce.

'They like the way they move...' Martha and Nick share a tender moment.

‘They like the way they move…’
Martha and Nick share a tender moment.

Virginia Woolf was one of the most wholesome theatre experiences I have ever had. From the opening spats I shared with Muireann Ní Raghallaigh as Martha, to the moments that approached blows with Conor Quinlan as Nick, to the Poe-bells sudden revelation shared with Ruth Darcy as Honey, to the heartbreaking climax shared by all four characters, each performance was filled with the kind of material that actors thrive on. I miss it every day.

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