by George Bernard Shaw.
Village Wooing and How He Lied To Her Husband
Tristan Bates Theatre 1a Tower Street WC2H 9NP To 31 January 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7240 6283.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 January.
Short Shaws well married.
Behind these short comedies lie two of George Bernard Shaw’s full-length plays. The philosophical drama, Man and Superman (1903), especially with its substantial ‘Don Juan in Hell’ act, is revisited in Village Wooing, exploring, some thirty years later, what underlies romantic love.
A and Z are atypical passengers cruise-liner passengers. A’s a village grocer’s assistant spending a windfall, Z a travel-writer gathering material for his latest volume. He wants to sit and write; she insinuates herself into his life through quietly insistent conversation, letting his rebuffs bounce off her. As with Superman’s Anne Whitefield and John Tanner, Z’s attempts to work and stay single are useless before A’s determined pursuit of him – which Shaw typically shows through ideas, describing rather than depicting feelings.
Fortunately for Z, Village Wooing’s compressed three-act structure sets its later scenes set in the shop where she works and which he visits en route, giving her time to pursue her course, using A’s (and Shaw’s) weapon of words, accompanied by a pleasant smile.
Shaw’s themes are perennial (regardless of whether his ideas are right) as Robert Gillespie’s niftily-directed Wooing suggests in its lightly updated costume and low-level realistic playing-style. This suits Madeleine Hutchins’ A, as her purpose gradually emerges from her seemingly inconsequential chat, rather than being announced from the start. It does well mostly for Mark Fleischmann as her target; only the final minutes, as he reluctantly succumbs to female attraction, lack some necessary vehemence.
Matilde Mangaroni’s set is efficient, if never quite seeming at home on the stage here. Her design blooms for the shorter second play of Jane Nightwork Productions’ double-bill at the Tristan Bates, where it creates an Edwardian drawing-room.
How He Lied, dashed-off in 1905, shows Shaw debunking Victorian stage romance, a repeated target of his early plays. Emotional pretensions are undermined by characters’ changing midway from affectionate forenames to surnames, which sound faintly ridiculous in this context, and references to Shaw’s fuller probing of sex and reality, Candida, first performed the previous year. The acting is less detailed, but efficient and the fun increasingly furious in this Shavian jeu d’esprit.
Z: Madeleine Hutchins.
A: Mark Fleischmann.
How He Lied To Her Husband:
Aurora Bompas: Viss Elliot Safavi.
Henry Apjohn: Josh Harper.
Teddy Bompas: Alan Francis.
Director: Robert Gillespie.
Designer: Matilde Mangaroni.
Lighting: Rob Mills.
Music: Mark Fleischmann.