The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Original London West End Production 2004

1st London West End Revival 2017


Play by Edward Albee. This Tony Award winning play is a startling play that questions the boundaries of love. In the same week as receiving an international prize, being awarded a lucrative contract and celebrating his 50th Birthday, Martin is forced to confess a secret to his wife and son. Subtitled "Notes toward a definition of tragedy". PLEASE NOTE: This play contains adult themes and is therefore not suitable for children.

Edward Albee's other West End plays include The Lady From Dubuque and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? 2004 starring Jonathan Pryce

Previewed 13 April 2004, Opened 15 April 2004, Closed 7 August 2004 at the Apollo Theatre London

A major production of Edward Albee's new play The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? in London starring Jonathan Pryce and directed by Anthony Page.

The cast for this production of Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? features Jonathan Pryce as 'Martin' with Kate Fahy as 'Stevie', Matthew Marsh as 'Ross' and Eddie Redmayne as Martin's and Stevie's son. Directed by Anthony Page with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Matthew Berry.

"Jonathan Pryce appears distracted and fidgety during the opening moments of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?. And so might you seem preoccupied if you were harbouring the secret that launches Edward Albee's play - namely that Pryce's Martin, a successful Manhattan architect, has fallen in love with a goat. Aha, one can hear the audience bleating, between nervous giggles: a symbol. Who, after all, falls in love with a goat, not to mention one called Sylvia? Well, Martin does, and has, and it's the over- riding achievement of Albee's short, sharp shock of a play that one's initial dismay (for some, it will be derision) is replaced, over the course of 90 minutes, by nearly bottomless grief and sorrow: the play isn't subtitled "Notes toward a definition of tragedy" for nothing. It helps, too, if you realise that the word "tragedy" derives from the Greek tragoidia, or goat song. Seventy-six next month, Albee is clearly charging artistically forward, his cunning intact. Behind the play's sleek facade lies an immensely exposing realm beyond rules, capable of transgression, coursing with unimaginable feeling. To that degree, Martin's beloved Sylvia is, after all, a symbol of those places few of us dare to go, and to which Albee, as provocative as ever, has devoted his career." The Sunday Times

"A favourite picture book in our household entitled 'Would You Rather . . .' invites readers to choose the best of a bad lot: 'Would you rather eat spider stew or slug dumplings?' It's a version of the adult game we've all played: would you prefer your partner to start wearing dresses or to leave you for another man, another woman or the nanny? Until I saw Edward Albee's bold and possibly brilliant new play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? it hadn't occurred to me to throw an animal into the equation. But this is precisely what Albee does to probe the limits of acceptable behaviour. And it makes for a disturbing piece, well spiked with seriously funny lines but ultimately as savage as Greek tragedy... Pryce pulls off the impossible task of persuading us that this intelligent, sophisticated man is truly, deeply and, probably, madly in love with a goat, and at the end of his tether. His pain is so real, so felt, so raw that we feel tremendous sympathy... Devastating, draining drama. Highly recommended." The Mail on Sunday

"When Stevie nips out and Ross, an old mate (of the platonic variety) turns up, Martin confesses he is having a passionate affair. Shy yet ardent, he describes how he first saw Sylvia, their eyes met and he was instantly besotted. Matthew Marsh's laddish Ross is unfazed by infidelity, but is appalled when he sees Sylvia's photo. She ain't just pig-ugly. She's actually livestock. The dramatist is playing some unsettling games here as Pryce's acting style hovers deftly between deadpan farce and fraught intensity. Have we just side-stepped into some surreal fantasy-going-on-allegory about lust? Or are we still watching naturalism, albeit of a startling sort, with Martin genuinely loving this animal and daring to speak her name? The unfolding argument is ethically challenging since the architect is unhappy about the destruction of his marriage and about Stevie wrecking their home in her wounded fury - yet he never fully accepts his behaviour is wrong or unnatural." The Independent on Sunday

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 13 April 2004, opened on 15 April 2004 and closed on 7 August 2004


The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? 1st London West End Revival with Damian Lewis 2017

Previewed 24 March 2017, Opened 5 April 2017, Closed 24 June 2017 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal

A major revival of Edward Albee's darkly comic play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in London starring Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo

The cast features Damian Lewis as 'Martin' and Sophie Okonedo as his wife 'Stevie' with Archie Madekwe as his son 'Billy' and Jason Hughes as his friend 'Ross'. Directed by Ian Rickson with designs by Rae Smith, lighting by Neil Austin, music by PJ Harvey and sound by Gregory Clarke.

Damian Lewis' West End stage credits include plaing opposite John Goodman in Daniel Evans' revival of David Mamet's play American Buffalo at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2015 and starring alongside Keira Knightley in Thea Sharrock's revival of Molière's comedy The Misanthrope at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2009. Sophie Okonedo is probably best known for her Oscar-nominated role in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. On stage, she won the Tony Award for 'Best Actress in a Play' playing opposite Denzel Washington in Kenny Leon's 2014 revival of Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun.

When this revival opened at the Haymarket Theatre in April 2017, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard praised how "Sophie Okonedo and Damian Lewis impress in this thoroughly strange play... The play is ingeniously manipulative, and in Ian Rickson's handsome production it's a vivid portrait of a marriage under immense strain... But the writing, for all its interest in smashing taboos, isn't as dark as it needs to be and its wit is pretty resistible." Paul Taylor in the i Newspaper explained that ,"having interviewed Edward Albee four times, I think he would have been dumbfounded by the brilliance of Ian Rickson's inspired and superbly acted revival of this 2002 play. Indeed, I suspect that not even he thought that a piece somewhat patronised hitherto as an astringent provocation was the full-blown masterpiece - a wildly funny, yet sensitive satire on the limits and limitation of liberal tolerance - that it's revealed to be here. Damian Lewis gives the performance of his life... Sophie Okonedo brings a fabulously funny fierceness to the platesmashing reactions of the wife Stevie... Archie Madekwe is splendid as the gay son... while Jason Hughes is spot-on as the bigoted old friend who witnesses it all... Unmissable." Ann Treneman in the Times highlighted how "Damian Lewis is five-star perfect here... Sophie Okonedo, who is a furious rather than curious wife, is a superior crockery smasher. Their son, gay and vulnerable, is played by Archie Madekwe in a brilliant debut. Ian Rickson directs and the pace is uneven, lagging particularly in the second act... There was a lot of surreptitious watch checking. The play itself felt dated. It's the performances that earn the three stars here." Neil Norman in the Daily Express hailed: "Damien Lewis is terrific... Ian Rickson’s production is beautifully observed and the absurdity of the plot never overwhelms the essential humanity of the characters, however twisted... While Albee is clearly challenging the audience with a mischievous dissection of liberal values, he maintains a balance between incredulous laughter and genuine pain. Weird but immensely watchable." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph thought that "Ian Rickson's account of a work that was in the West End not so many moons ago (2004) does it few favours... this is the third time Lewis has starred in a West End vehicle with a strong comic component. And it's high time someone - his agent? - told him stage comedy isn't his strongest suit... I remain goat-stubborn in my belief that this could be better." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said that the plotting was "It's daring and bizarre, sometimes laboriously so," adding that "in Ian Rickson's compelling production, Damian Lewis's pale, twitchy Martin doesn't quite convince you of the sincerity of his love but he does nail beautifully his bafflement and the obdurate reasonableness of someone who can't admit the destruction they are causing. Sophie Okonedo is brilliant: blistering, bruised, combining acid put-downs with raw anguish." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that Damien Lewis "pushes his capacity for guilt-ridden secrecy to the limit as the transgressive hero of Edward Albee’s 2002 tragedy. But the great thing about Ian Rickson’s superb revival is that Sophie Okonedo, as Lewis’s wife, reminds us that this is not simply a play about a lost individual but about two people staring into the abyss... The revelation of Rickson’s production, however, is that is as much a play about marriage as about erotic fixation." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail complained that "Edward Albee’s 2002 play The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? is self-indulgent, faux-daring rubbish, a repetitive ‘taboo-challenger’ about a man having a fully sexual love affair with a goat. Folks, it’s baaaaad... One or two members of the Haymarket audience adopted expressions of chin-stroking fascination but most just sat there in glum silence, aching for the 100 minutes to end. Understandably, there is no interval. The place would empty if they had a half-time."

"Edward Albee, a ceaseless theatrical experimenter, here takes taboo sexuality to its extremes while subtly referencing the origins of drama itself. The ancient Greek word tragoidia means goat song and it is likely that a goat was sacrificed at the Athenian play competitions. The Goat is audacious, challenging and funny, although at times the semantic quibbling grows tiresome. It is given a chillingly intense production by Ian Rickson, with faultless performances by Damian Lewis and Sophie Okonedo as the couple, and excellent support from Archie Madekwe and Jason Hughes." The Sunday Express

"It could almost be a sketch from The Fast Show or Little Britain. But despite some thin, scattered laughs, it isn't played for laughs, and this is really the only joke in it — which, stretched out over nearly two hours, isn't enough to make it a comedy. Not even when Martin goes all lyrical and soppy about what amazing eyes Sylvia has, what sweet meadow breath, and how she loves him just as much as he loves her... The fact is, this is a terribly silly play, driven mostly by a strangely juvenile urge to shock and challenge, but without much serious thought. The result isn't profound and provocative, it's shallow and trivial... There's precious little here to provoke any emotion, empathy or even much interest. Things aren't helped by Ian Rickson's elegant yet empty production, which just doesn't seem to know how to handle it. Lewis looks permanently uncomfortable in the lead role... Sophie Okonedo is one of the few redeeming features here, a terriic performance as the enraged and disgusted wife. Even in the minor roles, Archie Madekwe as the gangly teenage Billy and Jason Hughes as the straight man, Ross, are highly watchable. The music interludes from PJ Harvey are great, but you want a lot more of them to save you from the play. It's a depressing, dragy two hours. Weird, but boring." The Sunday Times

"If you can't imagine ever fancying someone with a goatee, put yourself in the position of Sophie Okonedo's poor Stevie. After decades of enviably perfect marriage to Damian Lewis's top architect Martin, she finds that her husband has been having an affair with a goat. It's funny, although late American writer Edward Albee's 2000 award-winning shocker is no comedy... The destructive force of Martin's behaviour is so great that the art-adorned living-room walls of the couple's brownstone townhouse cleave apart. As Stevie, Okonedo has the hardest job in the play. How does a sane person respond to the news that the love of her life, and father to her sensitive teenage son, erm, Billy (a terrific Archie Madekwe) has fallen head over hooves for a member of the livestock community? Okonedo suspends her Stevie in a state between loving and livid, combining incredulous calm with eruptions of violence. Lewis does a fine job transmitting an unhinged mind. The urbane charm of his Martin is plagued with fractured thoughts expressed in half-completed sentences." The London Metro

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? in London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket previewed from 24 March 2017, opened on 5 April 2017 and closed on 24 June 2017 (note - no performances from Monday 29 May through to Saturday 3 June 2017)