Presented by University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
Reviewed 4 August 2018
Absurdist theatre at its most unusual, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? provides a peek into the true feelings and unspeakable thoughts that plague the otherwise ordinary families of American suburbia.
Ordinary, middle-class family-man, Martin, can’t remember much; he doesn’t remember that he just won a well-known architecture prize or that he’s working on a major project called “The World City”, or even the children of his longest-standing friend, Rory. Something is playing on the happily-married architect’s mind, and we soon discover that this would be his infatuated love and devotion to a goat called Sylvia. Yes, you read that correctly – a goat… called Sylvia. As his family and friends begin to discover this life-altering secret, their world’s come crashing down, but some are determined to bring Martin’s down with them.
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? is the creation of American playwright, Edward Albee, and won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Play. Albee’s earlier works (unsurprisingly) were a key presence within the birth of American Absurdist Drama. The play deals with societally taboo subjects such as rape, homophobia and, of course, bestiality, leaving the audience at many points feeling as though they need a good, clean shower.
Much of the production’s humour comes from the truly absurd nature of the situation and the reactions of disbelief, anger and frustration from those involved (especially vicious tongue-lashings from Martin’s wife, Stevie). Many darkly comedic moments are found within jokes about support groups called “Goat-Fuckers Anonymous” and Martin’s ridiculous ideation of ‘love-making’ with a goat.
Martin and Stevie’s verbal and physical interactions, especially once his shameful secret is exposed, take centre-stage for much of the show. As Martin attempts to explain his loved-up decision to emotionally wreck the home his family had built, Stevie reacts by actually physically destroying it and this is a true sight to behold.
Although the entire cast all provide exceptional performances, Rachel Burfield steals the show as Martin’s heart-broken and emotionally distraught wife, Stevie, who is incapable of accepting the atrocious acts of her once faithful husband. Although providing many humorous moments, Burfield also has the ability to bring your chuckle to an immediate holt with her powerfully emotional presence that commands the stage almost the entire length of the show.
The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? is a one-of-a-kind theatre production that most certainly breaks down artistic barriers, providing an intriguing, nauseating and emotional rollercoaster for its audiences.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: Little Theatre, The Cloisters, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5000
Season: 4 – 18 August
Duration: 90 mins
Tickets: $18 – $22