Review – A Delicate Balance, Almeida Theatre

Thursday 12 May 2011

Dear Mr Albee,

Dr Andrew and Dr Phil dropped in at the Almeida surgery recently. They administered detailed examinations to the troubled men and womenfolk of your 1966 play without even taking recourse to insert the Whingers’ Patented Rectal Thermometer. We’re afraid we have bad news for you, the prognoses are not at all promising. Here are our findings:

Agnes: Bears a close resemblance to Penelope Wilton despite expressing a desire to look like Fanny Cradock. We noted that Agnes wears slacks which are a trifle on the snug side and could lead to poor circulation. She displays signs of underlying stress trying to keep A Delicate Balance in the family home, especially with her difficult, acerbic sister Claire as a permanent houseguest. She lost a young son many years ago*. Some may believe that repressing her feelings and her subdued disposition are commendable, but we suggest she needs to let herself go and display more vim. We also noted heavy drinking and smoking. Problems may go far deeper as she made a passing reference to her pudenda. We will be looking into this in due course.

Prescribe: *A long chat with Martha. Elasticated waists, Vimto and vajazzling.

Tobias: Bears a close resemblance to Tim Pigott-Smith. Prone to dullness probably due to living with his wife Agnes or the script. A heavy drinker who also encourages others to imbibe, particularly his sister-in-law Claire, though this is perfectly understandable with 3 Acts and 2 intervals to stagger through. Pouring so many drinks may lead to RSI. Tends to ramble at length when telling stories about cats. Potential feline allergy. Also liable to fiddling with himself when wearing a dressing gown.

Prescribe: A dog, a pocketless dressing gown and gloves or a copy of Nuts magazine.

Claire: Bears a close resemblance to Imelda Staunton. Smokes cigarettes and cigars. Clearly an alcoholic, or “a alcoholic” as she insists. Denies being both alcoholic and ungrammatical. Now, as doctors we like a drink ourselves and all that, but before breakfast? Her desire to purchase a topless swimsuit hints at exhibitionism. Finger and vocal co-ordination seemed perfectly sound as she demonstrated an ability to yodel and play the accordion simultaneously. May have delusional tendencies, believes she is actually appearing in a John Doyle production.

Prescribe: Longman’s Grammar of Spoken and Written English, a fry-up and ukulele lessons.

Julia: An early resemblance to Lucy Cohu proved misleading. Her true desire is to emulate Liz Taylor both physically and emotionally. Severely stressed having just finished her fourth marriage at the age of 36. Her biological clock’s ticking is deafeningly loud. The family gene which leads to heavy drinking and smoking is clearly strong. Returning to mummy and daddy (Agnes and Tobias) suggests she is regressing to her childhood. Needs to grow up. Prone to sulking, tantrums, hysteria, homicidal thoughts and baby-doll pyjamas.

Prescribe: Speed-dating and a good slap.

Edna and Harry: We examined this couple separately but concluded they appear to suffer from the same malaise. A tendency to drop in on their old friends Agnes and Tobias unannounced without any desire to leave. Inherently needy. They claim, rather enigmatically, to suffer from “fear” and “terror” though our diagnosis differs. Our initial conclusion was that Edna and Harry may have exchanged fluids with Samuel Beckett. Deeper analysis of the symptoms suggest this may be early signs of existentialism or, much worse, tertiary Pinter-itis. Symptoms of contagion already appearing in the family they impose upon.

Prescribe: Immediate confinement or a Saga cruise.

Professional Opinion

Interminable, dull, a certain cure for insomnia.

Two out of Five: slightly corked or vinegary

Second Opinion

Interminable, dull, a certain cure for insomnia.

Two out of Five: slightly corked or vinegary

17 Responses to “Review – A Delicate Balance, Almeida Theatre”


  1. Glad I wasn’t the only one who found this a masterclass in tedium.

  2. Ged Ladd Says:

    We got on better with this play than you whingers did. The quality of the performances was very high – especially Penelope Wilton, Imelda Staunton and (as Daisy insists on calling him) Lester Piggot.

    It did, however, suffer quite badly from diminishing returns as the play went on, especially the final act.

    We thought some pruning might have done it some good and enabled them to go for one interval – ending the first half at the end of Act 2 scene one, when the group go in for dinner.

    It reminded me a little of Long Day’s Journey, except without the show biz and drugs.

  3. Ged Says:

    Correction: Lester Piggott! Apologies for forgetting the second “t” – rumour has it, that “t” spends most of the year in Switzerland for some reason.

  4. Ali67 Says:

    Piggot Smith was awful.. Playing the same kind of gormless American he did in Enron..

    Penelope Wilton , dodgy accent aside , is always a class act and she looked fabulous.

    Imelda Staunton stole it though.. As always. A fabulous performance.

  5. Lupo Says:

    You guys are doing a good job at getting it very wrong at minute – blinding good shows like A Delicate Balance get reviewed as if they were dross and dross like Umbrellas you give raves to? This consistency could however be useful as a kind of unintended weather mane. I saw “Fings ain’t wot they used t’be” at the Union last night – sublimely good and fabulous fun – doubtless to be slated on these pages soon..

  6. Faggy Whiteboy Says:

    Dear me, poor Whingers. No musical numbers. No Sondheim lyrics. No big hats. No camp humour. No old TV stars popping up to do cameos as the comedy butler or someone’s drunk Aunt Milly. Not even a proscenium arch, since it’s the Almeida. Sounds like you need to proceed directly to the nearest theatre bar for an over-priced sherry and then onwards to an am-dram revival of Company.

  7. Ian Melser Says:

    We visit the theatre once every week,yours is th most intimate London theatre we’ve been to.
    Best wishes to you all.

  8. Parsley Says:

    Shame that WEW were not pleased or impressed with this play

    And that the REAL critics liked it!


  9. […] The always intriguing West End Whingers have taken their idiosyncratic approach to Edward Albee and have given a rather luke-warm reception […]

  10. Diane Says:

    Hilarious review but a bit mean to the actors. I felt the play had its longeurs and didn’t live up to initial promise but the performances were great – a masterclass in acting, particularly form Imelda Staunton.

  11. Jonathan Says:

    Spot on review, essentially a quality production which fails to deliver. The national
    Press critics seem to want to give it 4/5 because you really feel it surely was quality but essentially was a dull play that lacked realism

    • ja Says:

      Sorry but I fundamentally disagree. Really enjoyed it last night, as I did Knot of the Heart.
      Not sure I will bother with Poliakoff there this autumn though.

  12. Dean Porter Says:

    Saw it last night and really enjoyed! Fantastic acting, although we thought Lucy Cohu was a bit screechy.

  13. Charlie Says:

    Love the Whingers’ review, but totally disagree. I watched it last night and loved it – thought everyone was brilliant, but I think that I especially enjoyed Tim Pigott-Smith. Took a while to get going, and took a while for me to get into Albee’s hyper-real and poetic (some might say wordy) language, and I was in danger of falling asleep half way through Act 1. But once the uninvited guests arrived I was gripped.

    Definitely 4 stars for me. So all those 4-star critics were right on this one but very wrong with their 5-star Knot of the Heart reviews. I hated that play so much that I left at the interval, which I never do. Admittedly it was a Monday night and I was very tired, which may have swayed my decision.

  14. Angela Howe Says:

    This was an absolutely marvellous play – gripping and electric atmosphere, wonderful lines, and very good performances by all the cast, especially Imelda Staunton.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s