Edward Albee

Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance

Thu 5 May 2011 - Sat 2 Jul 2011

“Are you home forever, back from the world? To the sadness and reassurance of your parents?”

Urban socialites Agnes and Tobias appear to inhabit a glamorous world of drinks parties and social clubs. The return home of their recently divorced daughter, the constant presence of Agnes’ alcoholic sister and the impromptu late-night arrival of some close friends, begin to peel away this veneer.

As their lives become increasingly claustrophobic, the characters battle with their fear of stepping into the real world, opting instead for the undemanding familiarity of their own drawing room.

Laced with acerbic wit, A Delicate Balance won Edward Albee his first Pulitzer Prize and followed the success of his breakthrough work Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? One of the great American plays of the 20th Century, this is the fourth of Albee’s dramas at the Almeida after Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1996), The Play About the Baby (1998) and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (2004).

James Macdonald was last at the Almeida in 2009, directing our acclaimed production of Judgment Day. He was associate director at the Royal Court for 14 years and his other credits include Dido, Queen of Carthage (National Theatre) and Glengarry Glen Ross (Apollo Theatre).

Ticket Prices: £8 - £32

Evening Performances 7.30pm
Wednesday Matinee 2.30pm on 8 & 22 June
Saturday Matinees 3pm from 14 May

Running time is approximately 2 hrs 55 mins including two intervals.

Please note this production contains smoking.


Tuesday 14 June
(with speech-to-text transcription)
Stay in the auditorium after the performance to have your question answered by members of the A Delicate Balance company.
Free to same day ticket holders.


Tuesday 14 June, 7.30pm (Followed by Talkback with live speech-to-text transcription)
Saturday 25 June, 3pm
Audio Described
Saturday 18 June, 3pm
(touch tour at 1.30pm)


  • Imelda Staunton (Claire) and Tim Pigott-Smith (Tobias). Photo Hugo GlendinningImelda Staunton (Claire) and Tim Pigott-Smith (Tobias). Photo Hugo Glendinning
  • Penelope Wilton (Agnes). Photo Hugo GlendinningPenelope Wilton (Agnes). Photo Hugo Glendinning
  • Imelda Staunton (Claire) and Tim Pigott-Smith (Tobias). Photo Hugo GlendinningImelda Staunton (Claire) and Tim Pigott-Smith (Tobias). Photo Hugo Glendinning
  • Diana Hardcastle (Edna). Photo Hugo GlendinningDiana Hardcastle (Edna). Photo Hugo Glendinning
  • Ian McElhinney (Harry). Photo Hugo GlendinningIan McElhinney (Harry). Photo Hugo Glendinning
  • Imelda Staunton (Claire) and Lucy Cohu (Julia). Photo Hugo GlendinningImelda Staunton (Claire) and Lucy Cohu (Julia). Photo Hugo Glendinning
The cast
Lucy Cohu | A Delicate Balance | Almeida Theatre, London

Lucy Cohu


Lucy has recently received great critical acclaim for her performance as Sylvia Gellburg in Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass at the Tricycle Theatre; other recent theatre appearances include An Enemy of the People (Sheffield Theatre) and Speaking in Tongues (Duke of York’s). Her film credits include Becoming Jane and Gosford Park.

Theatre includes: School For Scandal (English Touring Theatre); Macbeth; Way of the World (Birmingham Rep); Blood Wedding (The Tricycle).

Television includes: Camelot; Silent Witness; Torchwood.

Diana Hardcastle | A Delicate Balance | Almeida Theatre, London

Diana Hardcastle

Diana was last seen at the Almeida in Jonathan Miller’s production of Camera Obscura. She has recently been seen in An English Tragedy at Watford Palace Theatre as well as A Kind of Alaska and A Slight Ache for the Gate. For the RSC she has made numerous appearances including New England, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and A Doll’s House. She has recently completed filming The Best Exotic Marigold.

Theatre includes: The Vortex; Woman of No Importance (Royal Exchange, Manchester); Remembrance of Things Past (National Theatre).

Television includes: The Kennedy’s; Fortunes of War; Doctors; Rosemary and Thyme; First Among Equals; That’s Love.

Film includes: Chromophobia; A Good Woman.


Ian McElhinney | A Delicate Balance | Almeida Theatre, London

Ian McElhinney

Ian has recently been seen at the Almeida in Michael Attenborough’s production of Through A Glass Darkly as well as There Came a Gypsy Riding. His extensive theatre work in Ireland includes many performances at the Gate and Abbey Theatres in Dublin and the Lyric in Belfast. On television his more recent credits include Game of Thrones, New Tricks, and Little Dorritt.

Theatre includes: Amphibians (RSC); Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Hampstead Theatre); Pygmies in the Ruins (Royal Court); The Cure at Troy (Tricycle Theatre).

Television includes: Betrayal of Trust; Scapegoat; The Tudors; Murphy’s Law.

Film includes: Three Wise Men; Cup Cake; Closing the Ring; The Front Line; Omagh; The Boxer; The Michael Collins Story.


Tim Pigott-Smith | A Delicate Balance | Almeida Theatre, London

Tim Pigott-Smith

In 1999 he played opposite Kevin Spacey in the Almeida’s production of The Iceman Cometh. Tim has most recently been seen on stage as Frank in Educating Rita at the Trafalgar Studios and as Ken Lay in Enron at the Noel Coward Theatre. He has also performed extensively for the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. In film he has recently been seen in Alice in Wonderland, Quantum of Solace and V for Vendetta. His more recent television credits include The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, The Queen and The Jewel in the Crown for which he won the BAFTA for Best Actor.

Theatre includes: Pygmalion (Old Vic); Little Nell (Bath Theatre Royal); Hecuba (Donmar Warehouse); Mourning Becomes Electra (National Theatre).

Television includes: The Hour; The Little House; On Expenses; Foyles War; Midsomer Murders.

Film includes: My Piece of the Pie; Normal For Norfolk; Flyboys; Gangs of New York; Remains of the Day.


Imelda Staunton | A Delicate Balance | Almeida Theatre, London

Imelda Staunton


Imelda was last at the Almeida in There Came a Gypsy Riding, and in 2009 received great acclaim as Kath in the Trafalgar Studios' revival of Entertaining Mr Sloane. Her varied screen career includes Mike Leigh’s recent triumph Another Year and the Oscar-nominated lead in Vera Drake; in the last few years she has also become well known to family audiences playing Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films.

Theatre includes: Calico (Sonia Friedman Productions); The Beggar's Opera; Guys and Dolls (National Theatre).

Television includes: Psychoville; Cranford Chronicles; Cambridge Spies; David Copperfield.

Film includes: Taking Woodstock; Three and Out; Nanny McPhee; Bright Young Things; Shakespeare In Love.


Penelope Wilton | A Delicate Balance | Almeida Theatre, London

Penelope Wilton


Penelope is one of Britain's most respected actors. Her extensive theatre credits include numerous appearances for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse. On television she is known for the sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles and is currently appearing in ITV's period drama Downton Abbey.

For the Almeida: The Deep Blue Sea; Heartbreak House; The Play About the Baby.

Theatre includes: Hamlet; The Family Reunion; John Gabriel Borkman (Donmar Warehouse); Women Beware Women; The Cherry Orchard; The Seagull (Royal Shakespeare Company); and numerous appearances for the National Theatre.

Film includes: Shaun of the Dead; Pride and Prejudice; The History Boys.




Creative Team

Direction James Macdonald
Design Laura Hopkins
Lighting Guy Hoare
Sound Ian Dickinson   
Casting Toby Whale   
Dialect Penny Dyer 


James Macdonald
For the Almeida: Judgment Day; The Triumph of Love; Wolf Club Village and Night Banquet (Almeida Opera).


Theatre includes: Cock; Drunk Enough to Say I Love You (also Public Theater, New York); Dying City; Fewer Emergencies; Lucky Dog; Blood; Blasted; 4.48 Psychosis (including European / US tours); Hard Fruit; Real Classy Affair; Cleansed; Bailegangaire; Harry and Me; Simpatico; Blasted; Peaches; Thyestes; The Terrible Voice of Satan (Royal Court); John Gabriel Borkman (Abbey Theatre Dublin / BAM); Dido Queen of Carthage; The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other; Exiles (National Theatre); The Book of Grace (Public Theater, New York); Top Girls (Broadway / MTC); Glengarry Glen Ross (West End); Dying City (Lincoln Center); A Number (New York Theatre Workshop); Troilus und Cressida; Die Kopien (Berlin Schaubühne); 4.48 Psychose (Vienna Burgtheater); The Tempest; Roberto Zucco (RSC); Love’s Labour’s Lost; Richard II (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester); The Rivals (Nottingham Playhouse); The Crackwalker (The Gate); The Seagull (Sheffield Crucible); Miss Julie (Oldham Coliseum); Juno and the Paycock; Ice Cream and Hot Fudge; Romeo and Juliet; Fool for Love; Savage/Love; Master Harold and the Boys (Contact Theatre); Prem (BAC / Soho Poly).
Opera includes: Eugene Onegin; Rigoletto (WNO); Die Zauberflöte (Garsington); OedipusRex; Survivor from Warsaw (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester / Hallé); Lives of the GreatPoisoners (Second Stride).
Film includes: A Number.  
Associate Director of the Royal Court from 1992 - 2006. NESTA fellow 2003 - 2006. 






* * * * * “James Macdonald’s cast are the very best... Imelda Staunton, as Claire, gives the unmissable, hilarious performance of her life... Funny, brilliant, troubling.”
Libby Purves, The Times, 16 May 2011

* * * * "An outstanding cast...it's all superbly calibrated and designed to disturb and haunt"
Georgina Brown, The Mail on Sunday, 29 May 2011

* * * * "Ferociously good acting...this uncomfortable and unsettling play is both gripping and hauntingly powerful"
Mark Shenton, Sunday Express, 22 May 2011
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* * * * "All the actors are brilliant...Albee's play remains as unsettling as ever"
Jane Edwardes, The Sunday Times, 22 May 2011

* * * * “James Macdonald’s beautifully pitched production…mordantly funny, handled with fearless honesty by a superb cast”
Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, 18 May 2011
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* * * * "James Macdonald's enormously intelligent production... its delicacy is beyond doubt."
Caroline McGinn, Time Out, 16 May 2011
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* * * * “James Macdonald’s superb ensemble production”
Michael Coveney, The Independent, 16 May 2011
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* *  * * “James Macdonald’s near-flawless production…Tim Pigott-Smith has done nothing finer than his Tobias.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian, 14 May 2011
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* * * * “This beautifully judged revival of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play shows A Delicate Balance to be a modern classic.”
Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 13 May 2011
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* * * * "An intoxicating drama with a top cast."
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail, 13 May 2011
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* * * * "Penelope Wilton is magnificent as the Sergeant-like Agnes…the star of the evening is the ever excellent Imelda Staunton.”
Paul Callan, Daily Express, 13 May 2011
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* * * * "James Macdonald's classy revival unpacks the density of Albee's writing…the dialogue drips with acid and is often viciously funny."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard, 13 May 2011
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* * * * “Wilton plays with infinite, suffocating patience and a velvety voice that turns Albee’s ornately compiled sentences into smiling boa constrictors… Director James Macdonald orchestrates the play with a chill sensitivity to its musical properties”
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage.com, 13 May 2011
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"James Macdonald's unerring revival has a top- notch cast... it is the greatest of treats to see Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton as its unbalanced and often indelicate sisters"
Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 22 May 2011
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"Macdonald's ear for structure and phrasing makes him as much an expert conductor as a director...This revival reveals, once and for all, that although The Goat has a more dramatic metaphor and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has more blood 'n' guts theatricality, A Delicate Balance is Albee's mature masterpiece."
David Benedict, Variety, 17 May 2011
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"Tim Pigott-Smith is superb…hypnotic and rather chilling"
Ben Dowell, The Stage, 13 May 2011
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"James Macdonald’s production gets the delicate balance just right."
officiallondontheatre.co.uk, 13 May 2011
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Penelope Wilton is interviewed by Metro about her career to date and her love for theatre. 
Read full article 

Imelda Staunton talks to The Times about her tenacious work ethic and taking on her role in A Delicate Balance.
Read full article (you will need a subscription to The Times Online to view this link)

The Telegraph interview Edward Albee about playwrighting and his reputation as A Delicate Balance nears opening night at the Almeida Theatre.
Read full article

Penelope Wilton talks to Time Out about Edward Albee, Downton Abbey and four decades in theatre.
Read full article 


"Really loved A Delicate Balance, wonderful writing - bleak, funny, compassionate - and a masterclass in acting. Inspirational"

"Funny, haunting and alcoholic. Go see"

"A great, thought-provoking play and a brilliant production! Excellent cast, well balanced, delightful set. The cocktails were convincing!"

"Absolutely exquisite revival of A Delicate Balance. My favourite production of the year so far, bar none."

"I thought Tim Pigott-Smith was magnificent as was Imelda Staunton – what a joy she is to watch. No weak links; beautifully paced and staged."

"Imelda Staunton makes the evening as the wickedly funny Claire. What a treat!"

Arts Council England ASP Group