by George Bernard Shaw.
Theatre Royal Sawclose BA1 1ET To 20 July.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 27 June 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 27 June 7.30pm.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 July.
Pleasant production stronger on comedy than candour.
Plenty of playwrights were penning plays on serious social issues in the late Victorian era when George Bernard Shaw got going as a dramatist. What ensured his popularity above them was his provocative humour, which flows through the argument even in the early (1894), comparative light Candida.
Candia is 33 and married to charismatic clergyman James Morrell, a Christian socialist greatly in demand as a speaker, silently adored by his pent-up secretary ‘Prossy’ and copied by his gentlemanly curate ‘Lexy’ Mill. Jamie Parker, handsomely confident in manner and busy at work, shows how Morrell gathers acolytes unaware, calming those around with benevolent ease – even his irascible father-in-law Burgess, a businessman always looking for potentially profitable contacts. Attaching himself to this ménage there’s Eugene Marchbanks, a young aristocratic poet of a self-conscious late Victorian type, in love with Candida.
The Morrells seem fortunate and attract everyone, like the more modern clerical couple in Alan Ayckbourn’s Joking Apart. So, when a cast member had to drop out, it’s apt that former Ayckbourn hand Christopher Godwin stepped-in as Burgess. Godwin makes this precursor to Pygmalion’s Alfred Doolittle a lively terrier, a good-natured sweat-shop owner who’s too blunt to hide his motives.
Standing, perching or sitting, the only time he looks awkward is when supposedly reading a magazine. Burgess needs to be doing something, the opposite of Candida, who blesses the room by being there. Charity Wakefield gives her a sweet, yet perceptive calm.
But she’s caught in director Simon Godwin’s urge to push Shaw with comic emphasis; there’s little space for domesticity to give rise to crises.
Action speaks louder than words in his production. Prossy’s sexual urges peek into view, she’s chased in alarm round the room, Morrell finds himself squaring-up several times to Eugene (side-by-side Frank Dillane is the taller, though it seems otherwise when they’re apart).
Marchbanks is difficult to catch; this production goes for a simplified youthful, poetic abstraction. Interesting for the portrait of Morell and the comedy of Burgess, it doesn’t give much room to Candida’s quiet charisma or the contrasted strength and weakness in her lovers.
Rev James Morrell: Jamie Parker.
Miss Proserpine Garnett: Jo Herbert.
Rev Alexander Mill: Edwin Thomas.
Candida: Charity Wakefield.
Mr Burgess: Christopher Godwin.
Eugene Marchbanks: Frank Dillane.
Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Nick Manning.
Composer: Stuart Earl.
Assistant director: Chelsea Walker.