The Goat or Who is Sylvia?

The goat or who is sylvia university of adelaide theatre guildUniversity of Adelaide Theatre Guild. Little Theatre. 4 Aug 2018


Those eyes. Those eyes.

Goats do, indeed, have the most wonderful eyes and one ponders whether it was indeed in having eye contact with a gorgeous, intelligent goat which inspired Edward Albee to write this wildly shocking and also desperately funny play.

Matt Houston’s production in the Little Theatre balances these emotional extremes of the play superbly. Indeed, one does laugh and one also cries and, from time to time, the eyebrows leap up to hit the roof. But, mainly, one laughs.


It is not only the calibre of the four performers which hit the spot but the spot itself. The play takes place in a living room and the intimacy of the Little Theatre really intensifies the action in a way rarely achieved in a proscenium theatre. One seems to be right within the play.

The Goat is a tragi-comedy on the theme of how one bad choice in life can render absolute downfall. 

Celebrity architect Martin believes he has the perfect marriage with Stevie. They are of the smug intelligentsia, a rather self-congratulatory couple with a gay teenage son. Then, one day, just as he is about to be interviewed for a TV show by his best friend, Ross, Martin gets terribly vague and distracted and everyone is asking why. Oddly, Martin has difficulty accepting why the news of his relationship with a country goat causes such emotional mayhem around him. And thus are the perspectives of love and humanity, bestiality and loyalty, and family played out in various levels of fury, debate, analysis, rage and bitter humour. It is a wild ride of a play.


Peter Davies plays Ross, the best friend and TV interviewer who is the first to discover "who is Sylvia". His role is all about incredulous shock and indignation and Davies plays it to an hysterical tee. Benjamin Quirk depicts the awkward and vulnerable teenage son, still treated as a kid by his self-absorbed parents. He is the collateral damage and Quirk brings home, complete with broken voice, the poignant impotency of watching a marriage collapsing in shards around one. 


Gary George portrays mad Martin, the man whose complete collapse of judgement has created this domestic horror story. George embodies him as bald and bespectacled, a perfect candidate for a mid-life crisis. It is a toweringly torrid role fraught with moral and philosophical conflicts, all of which George delivers to the audience like clever slaps in the mind. There is much to think about. 


It is Rachel Burfield who steals the show, however. She is the wonderful Stevie, the model bourgeois wife who has to come to terms with the unspeakable. Burfield’s pain and passion are visceral. It’s a sensational performance.


Indeed, with a simple and very practical domestic set and some perceptive lighting, this is a very classy production indeed - and emotionally rather enriching in an odd, Albee sort of way.


Samela Harris


When: 4 to 19 Aug

Where: Little Theatre


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