Shaw's comedic talent directed at the unfaithfully ridiculous!
“From romantic boyhood to cynical maturity! 15 years compressed into 15 minutes,”
The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond is already an intimate and well loved theatre, now with the socially distanced restrictions, it is like watching plays in your own drawing room, although I have never had a drawing room that would seat 48 downstairs and another score or so upstairs!
Paul Miller has chosen for his re-opening two short comedies by Bernard Shaw (who preferred to drop the George) and unless expectations of a three hour play are raised, he has called the programme Shaw Shorts. This instantly gives me a vision of the famous vegetarian in a pair of knee length tweed trousers to go with his fulsome beard, grown to cover small pox scarring, but sadly the only image we have of him in summer gear is of a swimming costume, black trunks and vest.
Both plays were written pre-world war between 1904 and 1912 and are firmly of the Edwardian era but their theme would have been quite shocking then. I could have felt we were watching a Shavian Married At First Sight Australia such was the modernity of the morality!
The first play from 1904 How He Lied to Her Husband was written by Shaw in Scotland, and is a three hander between Henry Apjohn (Joe Bolland), Aurora Bompas (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and Teddy Bompas (Jordan Mifsúd). This play was written as a curtain raiser to the play The Man of Destiny. Aurora has lost a bundle of love poems and letters from the youthful Henry and suspects her sister in law has stolen them to show to her (Aurora’s) husband. The play has been seen by Shaw scholars as a commentary on Shaw’s longer play Candida which showed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1904.
As Aurora and Henry discuss the implications of her husband Teddy finding out about the passion they share, they regret Aurora’s name being so distinctive and so easy to rhyme with! Henry launches into overly romantic, dramatic language while Aurora tries to wriggle out of the situation. The arrival of Teddy carrying a bundle of letters confirms the worst as Henry initially tries to lie out of the discovery. The two men descend into a cock fight and the outcome is not only astonishing but quite silly.
In the second play Overruled, two couples meet onboard a ship, Mr Gregory Lunn (Alex Bhat) and Mrs Juno (Hara Yannas) and declare love for each other. As they vacate the sofa, they are unknowingly replaced by Mrs Lunn (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and Mr Sibthorpe Juno (Jordan Mifsúd). The discussions about open or closed marriages will see four different opinions. Hypocrisy is demonstrated in Mr Lunn’s preferences for women to have affairs with and his own situation. Dorothea’s voice deepens as the worldly wise Mrs Juno and her facial expressions are natural but some of the acting is pastiche.
Shaw’s satires on marriage and the human condition would have benefitted from Edwardian costume to nail the period we are in, but maybe covid restrictions put paid to that option. The plays are Shaw Light and very welcome as a re-introduction to live theatre.
How He Lied to her Husband and Overruled
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Paul Miller
Director: Paul Miller
Designer: Simon Daw
Lighting Designer: Mark Doubleday
Sound Designer: Elizabeth Purnell
Running Time: Each play is about 35 to 40 minutes
Booking to 26th June 2021
The Orange Tree Theatre
1 Clarence Street,
Phone: 020 8940 3633
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Orange Tree
on 25th May 2021