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CURTAIN CALLS

"If Beckett had set all his plays in living rooms, no one would have a problem with them." Edward Albee has a point. Audiences tend to appreciate being led by the hand and naturalism is generally the fastest way to relax and beguile them into suspending their disbelief. Albee argues that all his plays are naturalistic which certainly applies to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but may puzzle anyone who has read his 1975 play Seascape, in which two lizard-like sea creatures crawl ashore and talk evolution, language and love with a married couple. Yet even there the writing feels naturalistic thanks to his handling of dialogue.

There are more games being played in The Play About the Baby, his latest work which the Almeida premiered at the Malvern Festival earlier this month. Nick Starr, the theatre's executive director, is proud of having proved that not only can you go against the marketing nostrums proclaiming the dangers of doing theatre in the country in August, but that you can attract big audiences for Brecht and a world premiere.

Albee's New York producer Liz McCann was certainly happy with the Almeida's producing style. On opening night she confided that Albee has another play in the typewriter at the moment. "I don't know why he doesn't just give it to them now," she beamed.

`The Play About the Baby', The Almeida, London N1 (0171-359 4404).

David Benedict

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